BEIJING, Ling Jihua, a former top aid to retired president Hu Jintao, has been sentenced to life in prison by the Chinese government for corruption.
Ling was accused of illegally obtaining state secrets and abusing his political powers by trading favors for some $11.57 million in bribes.
Ling’s political arc was once on the ascension. Until 2012, he headed the Communist Party’s General Office, a position similar to the White House chief of staff, and was tipped as a potential candidate for head of the party’s Politburo.
His downfall began in the fall of 2012 when Ling was accused of trying to cover up a scandal involving his son, who died after crashing a Ferrari following a night of partying. Two women were also in the car, one of whom later died as a result of the injuries. Salacious details and rumors quickly circulated.
Ling was demoted in 2012 as the scandal unfolded and as Hu yielded the presidency to Xi Jinping. Xi quickly made an anti-corruption campaign his signature domestic policy.
Ling, who was expelled from the Communist Party in July 2015, is the latest of several victims of the ongoing campaign. With his sentencing, Ling follows the path of former senior party officials Bo Xilai and Zhou Yongkang — from scandal to demotion to life in prison.
Critics suggest Xi’s corruption crusade is motivated as much by politics as it is by ethics.
The Chinese government has also apprehended Ling’s wife on corruption charges, as well as several associates. China recently asked the United States to extradite Ling’s youngest son, who lives in California.