“Chinese leadership reshuffle revives another high-level scandal”

WaPo on the ‘red ferrari’ scandal that just won’t go away:

Details of the crash on a Beijing street remain murky, but according to some accounts it involved the son of Ling Jihua, an ally of President Hu Jintao who was moved Saturday from his post as head of the Communist Party’s General Office of the Central Committee — the rough equivalent of the U.S. president’s chief of staff — to a less powerful job handling relationships with those outside the party.

Rumors of the link had swirled since the March 18 incident, but by Monday, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post had forced them into the purview of party officials, publishing a front-page story alleging that the crash involved a sleek Ferrari, two naked or semi-naked women and a half-clothed man the paper identified as Ling’s son.

The allegations touched on some of the flash points China’s leaders fear most, especially the image of privileged children of party officials living in extreme luxury, unbound by law or consequences. They also hit the headlines just as the party leadership may have felt it was beginning to contain the Bo Xilai saga, one of the most divisive and embarrassing episodes in China’s recent political history.

Back in March, authorities reacted quickly to the accident, preventing most Chinese media from covering it, banning microblog posts from mentioning it and blocking several search terms, including “Ferrari.”

Before his job switch this weekend, Ling had worked more closely with Hu than most other party officials, overseeing the day-to-day details of his and many other top leaders’ meetings and travel arrangements. He had even been viewed as a contender for the party’s 25-member Politburo, a position near the top of China’s political food chain.

The timing of Ling’s transfer, just ahead of the upcoming leadership change, has left experts speculating on its significance. His replacement, former Guizhou Party secretary Li Zhanshu, also has ties to Hu. But Li is also thought to have some ties with Xi Jinping, the leader earmarked to succeed Hu — a double connection that party leaders may have viewed as necessary as they navigate the transition.

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Filed under 2012 power transfer, Communist Party

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