Naked Ferrari crash prompts Chinese official’s downfall

Communist Party expels ex-aide to former president Hu Jintao over corruption, three year’s after son died in car crash.

File picture of Ling Jihua, former vice chairman of the Chinese People''s Political Consultative Conference pausing during a meeting in Beijing
Analysts see Ling's arrest as a political move by President Xi Jingping to reinforce his power [Reuters]

A former top aide to China’s former President Hu Jintao has been arrested on corruption charges following his expulsion from the Communist Party.

Ling Jihua, 58, is expected to face trial with a guilty sentence and jail term effectively guaranteed to follow.

Ling’s downfall was prompted three years ago when his son was killed in a Ferrari crash that also injured two female passengers, one of whom was naked.

Party disciplinary officials opened an investigation into Ling for “suspected serious disciplinary violations” – normally a euphemism for corruption – in December.

Analysts see his arrest as a political move by President Xi Jingping to reinforce his power.

Since coming to power in 2012, Xi has overseen a high-profile crackdown on corruption that has deposed several senior officials, but in the absence of systemic reforms, critics say the drive is open to being used for political faction-fighting.

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The list of most recently shamed officials include former security chief, Zhou Yongkang, who was jailed for life earlier this year, and Xu Caihou, once China’s second most senior military officer, who died of cancer earlier this year while under investigation.

Joseph Cheng, professor of political science at City University of Hong Kong, said Ling’s targeting suggested Xi was confident of taking on high-profile cadres associated with his predecessors.

Retired leaders in China are seen as continuing to wield influence behind the scenes, and Zhou has links to former Chinese president Jiang Zemin.

“By prosecuting figures formerly associated with first Jiang Zemin, and then Hu Jintao, certainly means that Xi Jinping wants to demonstrate his determination to get rid of all resistance to his policy programme irrespective of their affiliations and associations,” Cheng told the AFP news agency.

“It certainly generates pressure on previous leaders including Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao.”.