Xinhua News Agency

Corridors of power buzzing with sex scandal

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 July, 2006, 12:00am

Mixing sex and politics brews great scandals and mainland leaders have recently had plenty of them on their hands. But none has set the corridors of power in Beijing more abuzz than the scandal that led to the sacking of vice-mayor Liu Zhihua .

Xinhua's statement announcing Mr Liu's downfall on June 11 was very brief, merely saying that he was sacked for 'living a decadent life' because of the irrefutable evidence received by the authorities. But overseas media and mainland analysts did not seem to buy the story, suggesting that there were other, deeper reasons.

What Xinhua failed to mention was that the irrefutable evidence was contained in six hours of videotape of Mr Liu's sex romps with his long-time mistress and other women in various hotel rooms.

The videotapes were delivered directly to the Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection, the Communist Party's top anti-graft body, which in turn forwarded them to the mainland's top leaders.

One story making the rounds of the corridors of power was that the leaders were unanimous in their decision to sack Mr Liu immediately after suffering the humiliation of watching the entire tape.

Mr Liu's sacking is the latest in a slew of sex scandals involving high-ranking mainland officials including General Wang Shouye, a deputy naval commander, and Li Baojin, Tianjin's chief procurator. Although the monthly salaries of senior mainland officials are merely a couple of thousand yuan, many still manage to support not one but several beautiful young women as mistresses.

In the case of General Wang, he reportedly kept at least five mistresses, one of whom later reported him to the authorities, which led to his downfall. It came as little surprise that General Wang reportedly embezzled and misappropriated at least 160 million yuan of military funds for his personal pleasure.

Mr Li of Tianjin was arrested partly for using his influence to secure funding and contracts for his long-time mistress who headed one of the biggest city property developers.

As for Mr Liu, the investigation has partly focused on his efforts to help one of his girlfriends to secure lucrative contracts for the Beijing Olympics.

As with every great sex scandal involving senior government officials, politics also plays an important role.

In Mr Liu's case, most senior central government and Beijing municipal government officials were said to have learned of his arrest only after the decision was made, leaving no room for his political allies to make last-minute pleas on his behalf - with good reason. Before his arrest, Mr Liu had been shortlisted to become the capital city's top anti-graft official whose power was to investigate other officials' corruption and sex scandals.

Some overseas media have hinted that Mr Liu's fall was the result of political jockeying.

Mr Liu was the Beijing municipal government's secretary-general - the mainland term for the title of chief of staff - to Jia Qinglin who was then the city's mayor. Mr Liu was later promoted as the city's vice-mayor in charge of urban development and construction when Mr Jia was the party secretary, before his rise to China's fourth most powerful official as chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

Many mainland analysts have wondered whether Mr Liu's sacking was a message intended for Mr Jia, a close ally of former president Jiang Zemin , in the wider context of the leadership reshuffle scheduled for next year. In the realm of the Chinese-style political manoeuvrings wrapped under the utmost secrecy, your guess is as good as mine.