Ling Jihua, Top Aide to Former Chinese President, Sentenced to Life in Prison for Corruption


The Chinese authorities have sentenced Ling Jihua, the top aide of a former president and Communist Party chief, to life in prison for corruption, according to the state news media.

Mr. Ling was found guilty on Monday of taking bribes, abuse of power and illegally obtaining state secrets, the news reports said. He is one of the highest-ranking Chinese officials to be jailed for corruption.

Mr. Ling joins two other notable senior party officials, Bo Xilai and Zhou Yongkang, in receiving a lifetime prison sentence for corruption. All three men have been accused of trying to undermine the authority of President Xi Jinping, who took office in late 2012, the same year that scandals involving the three men unfolded.

Mr. Bo and Mr. Zhou are considered political enemies of Mr. Xi, and Mr. Ling is a critical player in an informal party group, known as the Youth League faction, that was a center of power before Mr. Xi became China’s top leader. Hu Jintao, the former president and party chief for whom Mr. Ling served, was a leader of that faction.

Mr. Xi has made a partywide anticorruption campaign his signature domestic policy, and many of his political opponents have been purged as part of that drive.

Mr. Ling once oversaw the party’s General Office, which handles administrative matters for the party chief and other senior leaders. He was the equivalent of the White House chief of staff and was privy to the confidence of Mr. Hu in a way few other officials were.

The scandal over Mr. Ling weakened Mr. Hu during Mr. Xi’s ascent to power in late 2012, and Mr. Hu immediately handed Mr. Xi an important title, chairman of the military commission. That broke with a precedent set by Mr. Hu’s predecessor, Jiang Zemin, who retained that title for a few more years even as Mr. Hu took other reins of power.

A court in Tianjin, an east coast city near Beijing, formally announced the life sentence on Monday, and a news report said a closed-door trial had been held on June 7. Prosecutors had filed an indictment with the court in May. But in China, the verdict and sentencing are often political decisions made at the top levels of the party; Mr. Xi would no doubt have had to approve the judgment on Mr. Ling and may have made it himself.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Edward Wong