Former party secretary of Chongqing’s Beibei district Lei Zhengfu was removed from office after anti-corruption blogger Zhu Ruifeng leaked a sex-tape of the official and a young woman late last year which quickly went viral and inspired several memes. Lei’s trial for involvement in a blackmail scheme associated with the video began yesterday in Chongqing. BBC reports:
Lei Zhengfu’s trial opened on Wednesday at the Chongqing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court in southwest China.
[…]Mr Lei is accused of accepting bribes of around 3.16m Chinese yuan ($0.51m; £0.33m), Chinese media said.
The businessman who arranged the alleged trap and the woman in the video with Mr Lei are also due to face court.
The businessman, Xiao Ye, is accused of luring several officials into so-called “honey traps”. [Source]
While the narrative has been that the young woman in the tape was hired by blackmailers, a report from the South China Morning Post notes that an unexpected twist emerged yesterday as Lei was on the stand:
The former Chongqing Communist Party official embroiled in an unfolding sex-tape scandal yesterday in court retracted his confession over alleged bribes, saying he and the woman in a video were genuinely in love.
[…]Lei questioned the reliability of witness testimony and said his confession had been made when he was suffering from high blood pressure, media reports said.
[…]The 55-year-old argued that he did not think most of the money stated in the prosecutor’s charges amounted to bribery.
Lei said he and Zhao Hongxia , the woman who appeared in the sex video with him, were in a loving relationship. The prosecution and earlier media reports said she was hired by developers seeking favours in bids for construction projects. [Source]
Early reports on Lei’s sex-tape scandal from the Chinese media suggested that fallen Chongqing officials Wang Lijun and Bo Xilai, both mired in a separate scandal of epic proportions, may have been linked to the initial cover up of the tape which was filmed in 2009. Lei’s case is one of many salacious scandals to hit Chinese officialdom—for more see a “Letter From China” by Evan Osnos.