Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

After Hu Ally Is Sidelined, His Scandal Comes to Light ; Wide-Ranging Cover-Up Followed Ferrari Crash That Killed Official's Son

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

After Hu Ally Is Sidelined, His Scandal Comes to Light ; Wide-Ranging Cover-Up Followed Ferrari Crash That Killed Official's Son

Article excerpt

Chinese officials said the son of Ling Jihua, a close ally of the departing president, died in a crash in which two women in the Ferrari he was driving were seriously injured.

China's carefully scripted leadership transition appears to have suffered another glitch: a fatal car crash involving a Ferrari, a privileged son and two women.

According to several well-connected party officials, the crash, on Beijing's Fourth Ring Road in March, killed the man on impact and left both women seriously injured. All were said to have been in various states of undress, these officials said.

It might have been just another example of China's crassly rich elite exercising bad judgment -- except for the identity of the driver. On Monday, the officials said he was the son of one of China's most powerful men, Ling Jihua, 55, a close ally of the departing president and Communist Party general secretary, Hu Jintao.

The connection had apparently been suppressed until this past weekend, when Mr. Ling suddenly suffered a demotion instead of a promotion when he left his role as head of the government's nerve center, the General Office of the party's Central Committee. He will now lead the United Front Work Department, a less powerful post aimed at improving ties with groups in society, though some analysts said he could still reach the party's Politburo at some point.

The shift comes in the midst of major behind-the-scenes jockeying as the once-in-a-decade power transition unfolds. "The question is how this will affect Hu Jintao," said Joseph Fewsmith, a Boston University professor who specializes in Chinese politics. "To have to drop Ling Jihua is embarrassing. He lost a key ally here."

The most straightforward analysis is that Mr. Ling's new posting could help the anointed next president and party leader, Xi Jinping, consolidate power more quickly by sidelining one of Mr. Hu's proteges, through whom Mr. Hu might have been able to exercise power even after retiring. Mr. Ling's replacement at the Central Committee is a provincial official, Li Zhanshu, who has been friends with Mr. Xi since the two served in Hebei Province in the 1980s. …

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