China has charged a former Communist Party’s top official, state-run news agency Xinhua reported Friday. Ling Jihua, aide to ex-president Hu Jintao, has formally been charged with corruption: taking bribes, illegally obtaining state secrets, and abuse of power.
Mr. Ling is one of the highest-ranking officials to be taken down by current President Xi Jinping’s extensive anti-corruption campaign. President Xi launched the program along with his ally, Wang Qishan, who manages the part agency in charge of discipline and inspection.
Mr. Ling served as Hu Jintao’s top aide, in what would be equivalent to a United States White House chief-of-staff position. Under Hu’s government, Mr. Ling rose up to the role of head of the Central Committee’s General Office, which handles all administrative affairs for the President and other principal CCP officials.
However, Mr. Ling’s elite position in the Chinese government did not last long; Ling was demoted after it was found out that he hid the death of his son, Ling Gu. Ling Gu was killed in a horrific car crash in 2012 when he crashed his Ferrari in Beijing, injuring two female passengers as well.
Mr. Ling was forced to make a huge jump down in prominence, working as head of the United Front Work Department. His demotion occurred ahead of schedule, causing speculation that the move was a result of political maneuvering ahead of the leadership change (to Mr. Xi) happening that year.
The New York Times reports that there was suspicion that Mr. Ling had also engaged in “shadowy dealings” with Zhou Yongkang and Bo Xilai – two other former Chinese senior officials who made international headlines when they were convicted and imprisoned for corruption.
Chinese authorities announced an investigation into Ling Jihua in late 2014. Then considered an enemy of President Xi’s, Mr. Ling was expelled from his position in July 2015. The Party claimed that he was removed from public office because “he had taken bribes, committed adultery, and improperly hoarded a large amount of state and party ‘core secrets.’”
Mr. Ling’s charge illustrates the continued and very public self-proclaimed “efforts” of President Xi’s to eradicate internal corruption in his government. In fact, Xi has made this campaign the platform of his leadership. According to the government, China says it has punished nearly 300,000 officials in 2015 alone.
“However, some observers see the anti-corruption campaign as a way for the Party to rein in officials seen as becoming too influential, or as a means of pursuing personal vendettas,” BBC news wrote in an article Friday.
The prosecutor’s announcement said that the indictment was filed in a court in the town of Tianjin, but it made no remarks as to when a trial might be held. However, based on the anti-corruption campaign’s recent momentum and subsequent arrests, Ling Jihua will almost certainly be convicted and face a harsh Chinese prison sentence.