Former Head of Secretive Chinese Gatekeeper Agency Set for Trial

May 16, 2016 Updated: May 16, 2016

Ling Jihua, the former chief of the General Office of the Chinese Communist Party and top aide to former Party leader Hu Jintao, was recently indicted by the regime’s top prosecuting body.

According to report by state mouthpiece Xinhua News Agency on May 13, Ling, 59, was charged with taking massive bribes, abusing his office, and illegally obtaining state secrets. The No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court of Tianjin, a port city in eastern China, will adjudicate Ling’s case.

Ling could be due for a lengthy stint in jail if he’s proven guilty, which is almost a certainty in communist China. The greatest punishment he faces is the death sentence on the charge of misappropriating state secrets, but execution is unlikely. Overseas Chinese language news website Bowen Press said that the trial is likely to be held sometime in June, referencing an insider in Beijing.

Formerly one of the most influential Party cadres in China, Ling quickly fell into disgrace after a failed attempt to cover up the death of his son, who was killed in a high-profile Ferrari accident in 2012. From heading the Party’s secretive General Office—a Party agency that handles highly classified paperwork and provides logistical support for the Politburo and Party Secretariat—Ling was moved to the United Front Work Department, which handles political warfare. In December 2014, Ling was formally investigated by the Party’s internal disciplinary bureau, and was expelled from the Party nearly seven months later.

During Ling’s incarceration, Hong Kong and overseas Chinese media revealed the extent of his corruption—investigators retrieved six truck-loads of valuables worth about $13.4 billion from his luxurious homes in China and abroad—and even carried rumors of his feigning insanity while being subject to “shuanggui,” the Party’s infamous process of interrogating Party members, in which torture is often used to extract confessions.

Earlier this year, Ling was one of five purged top cadres fingered by Party leader Xi Jinping in a speech as a political conspirator who had sought to “wreck and split the Party.” Importantly, the other figures denounced are allies of Jiang Zemin, the former Party boss and the primary political force that has obstructed Xi Jinping from gaining control of the levers of power in China. Key to Xi’s efforts in uprooting Jiang’s political network and cleaning up the Party organs that have been deeply infiltrated by Jiang’s clients is the anti-corruption campaign.

Recent reports in the Chinese media, however, suggest that Xi could be employing gentler methods to cleanse the General Office of Ling Jihua’s remaining influence. Earlier this year, many top officials at the General Office were quietly transferred out, or have opted for early retirement.