One late night this March in Beijing a Ferrari slammed into a guard rail then careened off another on the opposite side. When the crushed luxury sports car came to a halt a naked young man thrown from the vehicle was dead. Two young women – one naked, one clothed – were seriously injured. One remains paralysed. The car was totaled. It was worth US$200,000 in a country where the annual average salary is US$7,158 (CNY45,452).
According to China Media Project, initial posts of the accident (including the photograph above) were deleted from Weibo. This led to speculation that the people involved were relatives of high-ranking party officials:
“Unconfirmed reports on the Internet suggest that the driver was the illegitimate son of Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee member Jia Qinglin.” According to NTD Television
The accident was met with outrage over the lifestyles of the young and rich in China. This is a conservative country so the ostentatious display of wealth, alcohol and purported sex games while driving fast through snow-covered streets became social tinder. Comments on the crash were blocked across China’s micro-blog services.
Later a death certificate was issued under the surname of Jia. This fueled speculation he was the illegitimate son of Jia Qinglin, a high-ranking member of the Politburo Standing Committee. Jia Qinglin ordered an investigation.
Now, however, speculation is turning to an even higher-ranked father. International Chinese news media report the dead youth was the Ling Gu – the legitimate son of Ling Juhua, who serves as a secretary of the Central Secretariat of the Communist Party of China, and the head of the United Front Work Department of the CPC Central Committee.
Ling Jihua is also a senior and trusted adviser to President Hu Jintao, working as his principal aide – until last week. He was replaced by Li Zhanshu in a leadership shuffle just last week. This was positioned as a natural reordering in advance of the change of leadership later this year. Instead it looks like a last-dash attempt to distance himself from the scandal.
As an aside, the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China is due to be held this autumn, and a once-in-a-decade change of leadership will occur. President Hu Jintao is slated to step aside for incoming President Xi Jinping - the candidate he hand-picked.
Will this scandal rock the ability of Hu Jintao to nominate his successor?
This is a serious issue for the leadership of China. The highest-ranking aide to the President had a son killed in a US$200,000 vehicle while driving naked and drunk through the streets of the nation’s capital. China’s leaders would be questioned about their finances – the cost of the car far exceeds their public servant wages. The morals of a nation’s leaders can’t condone the young man’s actions.
Worse yet Ling Jihua went to work the next day and traveled abroad in the weeks after the accident. He never acknowledged his son’s death.
The cover-up has been extensive and only now are media sleuths connecting the dead youth to the President of China’s top aide. It will stain the reputation of President Hu Jintao himself as the young man’s actions occurred within his inner circle.
This latest revelation comes at a bad time for China. The Bo Xilai scandal hasn’t disappeared. Now the cover-up of a dead son in a Ferrari is surfacing. This all damages Hu Jintao’s chances of securing an orderly transition of power to those leaders he selected. Other factions may claim the corruption and cover-up invalidate the present leadership’s ability to name successors.
For now, an unnamed youth is dead and a young girl remains paralysed. A father never grieved his son’s death. Instead the cover-up and intrigue have been fast and thick. Now, however, that’s unwinding. And with it may go Hu Jintao’s hopes of an orderly transition of leadership in China.