Jonathan Ansfield of The New York Times retraces the cover-up of a March Ferrari crash that killed the son of one of Hu Jintao’s top aides, a development which Communist Party insiders say cost Hu precious leverage in the run-up to China’s leadership transition:
China’s departing president, Hu Jintao, entered the summer in an apparently strong position after the disgrace of Bo Xilai, previously a rising member of a rival political network who was brought down when his wife was accused of murdering a British businessman. But Mr. Hu suffered a debilitating reversal of his own when party elders — led by his predecessor, Jiang Zemin — confronted him with allegations that Ling Jihua, his closest protégé and political fixer, had engineered the cover-up of his son’s death.
According to current and former officials, party elites, and others, the exposure helped tip the balance of difficult negotiations, hastening Mr. Hu’s decline; spurring the ascent of China’s new leader, Xi Jinping; and playing into the hands of Mr. Jiang, whose associates dominate the new seven-man leadership at the expense of candidates from Mr. Hu’s clique.
The case also shows how the profligate lifestyles of leaders’ relatives and friends can weigh heavily in backstage power tussles, especially as party skulduggery plays out under the intensifying glare of media.
Beyond the police and government officials reportedly enlisted by Ling Jihua to suppress details about his son’s death, The South China Morning Post also reported last month that the government had questioned the head of China’s biggest oil and gas producer about alleged hush payments made to the families of the two female passengers injured in the crash.