December 22, 2014
The anti-graft arm of China’s Communist Party began a probe of a former top aide to retired President Hu Jintao as the nation pushes ahead with a campaign to root out corruption that’s brought down high-level officials.
Ling Jihua, 58, a vice chairman of China’s top political advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, is under investigation for alleged serious disciplinary violations, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said in a statement dated Dec. 22.
The probe signals that Hu’s successor, President Xi Jinping, is pressing ahead with the anti-graft campaign at the highest levels of the Communist Party even after netting officials including Zhou Yongkang, a former member of the Politburo Standing Committee. Xi has warned that corruption risks undermining the party’s legitimacy.
“The detention of Ling shows Xi’s campaign has reached a new level by targeting the chief of staff of then-president Hu Jintao and sends a message that no one is 100 percent safe,” said Zhang Ming, a political science professor at Renmin University in Beijing.
Ling was considered a top candidate for the party’s Politburo before his ascent of party ranks ended after accusations that he tried to cover up details of the crash of a Ferrari that killed his son in March 2012, the South China Morning Post reported in September of that year.
As head of the party’s General Office before that time, Ling was responsible for the safety, health and confidentiality of Politburo Standing Committee members, and was seen as a top aide to Hu, according to Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Cheng Li.
“The problem with moving on Ling is that it looks increasingly like a political purge,” said Kerry Brown, director of the University of Sydney’s China Studies Center. “Ling was closely associated with Hu Jintao so targeting him is a bit like targeting Xi’s predecessor. It’s the most blatant political statement you can make.”
Ling Jihua’s brother Ling Zhengce, one of the top officials in coal-rich Shanxi province, is under investigation for alleged “severe” violation of law and party discipline, the anti-corruption commission said on June 19.
The Communist Party-owned Global Times newspaper wrote in an editorial on its website today that Ling Wancheng, a businessman and another brother of Ling Jihua, was also under investigation. “Ling’s family was consumed by the power he possessed and abused it for ill-gotten gains,” it said.
“Ling’s fall sends a strong signal to the public that the anti-graft endeavor will be a long-running undertaking,” the editorial said. “The central government has decided to face its problems directly. Such an attitude gives hope and confidence to Chinese society.”
The move comes less than two weeks after the Communist Party expelled Zhou, the retired security chief, accusing him of leaking official secrets and violating party discipline. Zhou abused his power to help his friends make profits and accepted “huge bribes” personally and through his family, according to Xinhua.
Ling is also minister for the United Front Work Department, which handles relations with non-party organizations and Tibet.