Former Hu Aide Arrested

Ling Jihua, a top aide and confidante of former Chinese President Hu Jintao (l.), has been arrested on corruption charges. Ling has been stripped of his Communist Party membership and removed from power.

Seven months after longtime Chinese political insider Ling Jihua was put under investigation, he was arrested and charged with corruption by the Communist Party’s Politburo. He was stripped of his party membership and removed from all government positions, reported the Japan Times.

Ling is the latest casualty in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ongoing campaign to root out corruption, and some say, neutralize any threat to the president’s political power. “It’s the sign of the determination of Xi Jinping and the leadership to go after high-level actors in the anti-corruption campaign,” said Jeffrey Bader, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

“Xi needs to reassert central control over the party, which seems to have slipped under his predecessor Hu Jintao,” Andrew Wedeman, director of China Studies Initiative at Georgia State University, told CNN. “It isn’t a political witch hunt in the crude sense of that notion, but certainly it’s a highly political campaign.”

At the peak of his career, Ling held a position that was comparable to White House chief of staff. But he remained a comparatively minor player in the halls of government. In fact, the former head of the party’s general office under Hu was best-known for a 2012 scandal that erupted after his son crashed a Ferrari in Beijing. The son, who reportedly was killed in the accident, was accompanied by two semi-clad or nude women. Ling was accused of covering up the incident.

The Xinhua News Agency said the government investigation determined that Ling accepted bribes and used his political influence to benefit his family. Ling’s wife, Gu Liping, who established a nonprofit organization for youth education, also reportedly received bribes. Ling also was accused of having a number of illicit affairs, in violation of party rules.

The Japan Times said it is “a foregone conclusion” that Ling will be found guilty by the courts, which are controlled by the party. He follows in the footsteps of disgraced former Politburo members Bo Xilai and Zhou Yongkang.

Xi has said he would pursue illicit activities by both “tigers and flies.” If Ling qualifies as a tiger, 30 suspects who went on trial in southwest China’s Yunnan Province may be the flies.

Wang Lijuan and 29 other suspects were tried at the Qilin District People’s Court in Qujing City for running casinos and facilitating the opening of casinos run by others, according to the Qilin District People’s Procuratorate, cited in the Shanghai Daily.

Wang, the alleged ringleader, set up Kunming Tangcheng Entertainment Ltd. in 2005. She and her cohorts then installed gambling machines, dice, cards and mahjong, and staged catwalk shows and other performances as a front from 2009 to late 2014, the court said. The group allegedly raked in 43 million yuan (US$7 million) from their illegal business.