The high-speed road death of a playboy son of a high-ranking Chinese government official has caused another rare scandal in China’s ruling Communist Party just weeks ahead of its once-in-a-decade leadership transition.
Ling Gu, 23 – the son of Ling Jihua, who ranks fourth in the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee – was killed when he lost control of his black Ferrari 458 Spider on Beijing’s North Fourth Ring Road in the early hours of March 18.
The crash was, however, kept secret by the government because the victim’s father is an ally and close aide of outgoing President Hu Jintao.
Police who attended the scene said Ling Gu died instantly and two young women – one naked, one semi-naked – were seriously injured, with one of the passengers said to be paralysed from the neck down.
Photos of the wreckage circulated online and for months many Chinese speculated that the trio were playing sex games, causing the car to spin out of control.
Some reports claim Ling Gu was also found naked and that the name on his death certificate was changed to conceal his identity.
But the government’s attempt at a cover-up appeared to have failed after Ling Jihua, who is responsible for leadership security, was suddenly removed from his post earlier this week.
China’s government censors have been deleting all online microblog posts mentioning the car crash and blocking searches of the words ‘Ferrari’, ‘Little Ling’ and ‘Prince Ling’.Details of the tragedy remain shrouded in mystery but the controversy has triggered more anger among China’s middle classes.
The accident is seen as the latest example of wild and excessive behaviour by the ‘second-generation rich’ – the privileged offspring and relatives of government officials who exist in world of nepotism and luxury inaccessible to most of the population.
Many are questioning how Ling Gu, who graduated from a top university last year, and other children of officials – who earn just £6000 a year from their government jobs – are able to afford a marquee sports cars worth nearly £500,000 sports.
His death has once more thrown the spotlight on widespread government corruption which affects all levels the governing Party, including key ministries and state-run businesses.
Over the past few years, other so called princelings and their offspring have been accused of abusing their power and amassing large amounts of cash through graft.
Ling Gu’s room-mate at Peking University said he had not been able to contact his friend since the crash.
‘We have all been trying to get in touch with him since we heard about the car accident,” he told reporters.
‘He was supposed to go to graduate school, but he has not been seen since the crash. I really cannot tell what happened. But all of his friends said it happened, so I guess it must have,’ the friend added.
Ling Jihua was among the officials who are nearly always at Hu’s side during visits at home and abroad over the past decade.
Chinese state media announced that he was replaced as head of the General Office by Li Zhanshu, 61, a close ally of Vice President Xi Jinping, who expected to become China’s new president.
President Hu is said to have agreed to Ling Jihua’s removal as the Communist Party struggles to re-mould its tainted image and win back public confidence.
The loss of Ling Jihua is a blow to President Hu, who is seeking to fill important positions with his protégés as he prepares to retire.
The latest public embarrassment for the Community Party – which operates under a cloak of secrecy – follows the biggest political scandal in Chinese politics in two decades.
Earlier this year Bo Xilai, an ambitious senior politician tipped for a high-ranking post, was sacked after his wife, Gu Kailai, was accused of murdering British business man Neil Heywood.
The gripping case exposed the heady cocktail of money, power and greed that greases the wheels of China’s authoritarian government. The trial also revealed factional infighting between liberal and hardliners at the top of the Party.
Gu was handed a suspended death sentence last month and Bo is awaiting his fate under house arrest.
The new leadership is expected to be unveiled next month – but because of the unprecedented slew of scandals, an official date for the handover of power in the world’s most populous and second richest country, has yet to be announced.
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