China’s political elite has been shaken by a lurid new scandal over the death of a senior official’s son who crashed his Ferrari during what appeared to be a sex session with two women.
Details of the March accident in Beijing, which also left the women injured, have stayed under wraps in China but are leaking out via media in Hong Kong. The media blackout underscores official fears that the public will be outraged by another instance of excess and recklessness among China’s power elites.
The incident follows the jailing of the wife of a top leader who poisoned British businessman Neil Heywood. Both scandals have become bargaining chips in the jockeying for power ahead of a major leadership reshuffle this autumn.
The South China Morning Post cited an unnamed official in Beijing as confirming that Ling Gu, the son of a loyal aide to president Hu Jintao, was the person killed in the March 18 Ferrari accident which initially had minimal and cryptic coverage in China’s state media.
The report said Ling was half-naked when the crash occurred and his two passengers were naked or half-dressed, suggesting they had been involved in some kind of high-speed sex game.
The Post’s story came just days after the Chinese government announced Ling Gu’s father had been transferred to a new position, a move that analysts say ended his ambitions for a post in the upper ranks of the top leadership. They said the shift appeared linked to his son’s scandalous death.
On Saturday, Ling Jihua was named as the new head of the United Front Work Department and his old job as director of the general office of the Communist Party’s central committee was given to Li Zhanshu – thought to be a close ally of Xi Jinping, the man tapped to the China’s next president.
Some analysts have said the shuffle appears to be a victory for Xi and a blow to Hu’s camp.
Joseph Cheng, a professor political science at the City University of Hong Kong, said Ling’s shift was not a “serious demotion” but one that clearly removes him from the centre of power.
“This Ferrari accident certainly caused his stepping down,” Mr Cheng said. “This means that instead of going further up, he has to go to the second line.”