18th Party Congress

Loss of Politburo seat deals a further setback to Hu's former chief of staff

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 November, 2012, 5:13am

Ling Jihua, until recently the chief of staff of President Hu Jintao , has become the only former director of the Communist Party Central Committee's general office not to be elected a Politburo member or alternate member since the founding of the People's Republic in 1949.

All Ling's predecessors joined the Politburo as a full member or alternate member after heading the office. Most recently they have included Premier Wen Jiabao , who was head of the office from 1987 to 1992, former vice-president Zeng Qinghong and Ling's predecessor Wang Gang .

Ling, 56, suffered a serious setback to his political career after he was accused of covering up a Ferrari crash in Beijing in March which claimed the life of his only son and left two women passengers badly injured.

Hu's former chief of staff had been considered a shoo-in for the Politburo - and maybe even a contender for its supreme Standing Committee - before the crash. Having been close to Hu for nearly two decades, Ling was considered an important member of the former party general secretary's political camp and was being groomed to become one of the People's Republic's sixth generation of leaders in 10 years' time.

Ling managed to secure a spot on the party's Central Committee, its 205-member ruling body, on Wednesday. But delegates said after the vote - which took place behind closed doors - that 94 delegates to the party's national congress had voted against Ling's re-election, one of the highest dissatisfaction ratings among all the elected members and an odd result for someone who was once the party leader's closest aide.

"The number of 'no' votes for Ling is comparatively high," said Chen Jiping, a congress delegate and party secretary of the China Law Society. "I have heard of the scandal about Ling, but I think it is a rumour that I cannot believe."

Ling was transferred to become head of the party's United Front Work Department, a less powerful position, in September in a move widely seen as punishment for the cover-up.

Ling has been exempt from formal investigation, but some party elders and supporters of ex-Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai have argued that Ling and Bo, who was expelled from and is facing criminal charges for disciplinary violations, should not be treated differently.