By Elliot deBruyn
A photo of Ling Jihua at the CPPCC in Beijing in March, 2013.
During the ongoing Two Sessions (lianghui) of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and National People’s Congress (NPC), on Sunday in Beijing former Hu Jintao advisor and now defunct politician Ling Jihua was given a second chance. Ling was appointed vice chairman of the CPPCC, indicating a potential reemergence onto the national political stage.
Last March, Ling’s 23 year old son, Ling Gu, crashed a Ferrari in Beijing, killing himself and one of the two female passengers accompanying him. The $1 million black Ferrari 458 Spider was reportedly going so fast that it split in two when it hit a bridge, and all three occupants were found partially or entirely naked.
On top of widespread criticism about the younger Ling’s extravagant lifestyle (and that of other party official’s spoiled children), there were also dozens of well-documented accusations of a cover-up attempt by Ling and other officials.
The story of the alleged cover-up reads like a cutthroat Hollywood political thriller screenplay:
- For sixth months after the crash, Ling Gu’s identity was hidden not only from the public but also largely from Chinese party officials.
- Social networking updates were sent out under Gu’s name, one of which stated: “Thank you. I’m well. Don’t worry.” This was sent out three months after his death.
- In September of last year, Ling was moved from his position as the head of the General Office of the Central Committee to a fluff position as the head of the United Front Work Department.
- Then in November, the chairman of China National Petroleum Corp Jiang Jiemin was questioned about “several tens of millions of yuan” that was transferred from the company to the family members of the two women involved in the crash.
- In an unrelated matter, Ling’s wife, Gu Liping, was accused in late 2012 of having embezzled funds from her charity, Youth Business China.
A photo circulated on Weibo shortly after the crash that killed Ling Jihua’s son, which was later deleted.
“Considering that Ling was an important member of Hu Jintao’s camp, Hu may have pushed to retain his protégé’s influence,” independent analyst Chen Ziming told the Southern China Morning Post.
Ling has been to the brink within the party, as evident by his incredibly fast and dramatic fall from grace. But this move shows the party’s continued willingness to sweep corruption and tainted pasts under the big red rug.