Skip to navigationSkip to content
Reuters/Jason Lee
Ling Jihua in 2013.
TIGERS AND FLIES

The latest “tiger” jailed by Xi Jinping is his predecessor’s right-hand man

Heather Timmons
By Heather Timmons

White House correspondent

Chinese president Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption drive has been called a politically tinged purge of his enemies in the communist party by some critics.

The latest target won’t do much to dispel this notion: Ling Jihua was sentenced to life in prison today (July 4), state media Xinhua reported, for taking bribes, abuse of power, and illegally obtaining state secrets. Ling, 59, served as former president Hu Jintao’s chief of staff and was considered one of the party’s most powerful men until his son was killed in a car crash in 2012 that also killed an American woman.

The subsequent cover-up dismayed party delegates, the South China Morning Post reported in 2012, and Hu was demoted from a ministerial job to a lower level position, before being arrested in 2014. He took bribes worth nearly $11.6 million, Xinhua reports.

But it may also have been Ling’s political history that led to his demise. As an aide to Hu, Ling was considered so close that a call from him was like a call from president Hu, sources told The New York Times in 2012 (paywall). He also burnished Hu’s star at the expense of Xi’s, they said.

Mr. Ling played a central role in moving Youth League veterans into high offices and undermining Mr. Hu’s adversaries. Mr. Ling also wielded leverage over Internet censorship of leaders’ affairs, and sought to use it to benefit his patron.

“Negative publicity, including untruths, about Xi Jinping were not suppressed the way publicity about Hu Jintao was,” said one associate of party leaders.

Ling pleaded guilty in the closed-door trial, Xinhua reported.

Subscribe to the Daily Brief, our morning email with news and insights you need to understand our changing world.