Senior Chinese party official Ling Jihua, a former aide of Hu Jintao, dismissed from post

Mr Ling Jihua, a senior Chinese Communist Party official who was a close aide to former president Hu Jintao, has been removed from his post amid a corruption investigation, state media said on Wednesday. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Mr Ling Jihua, a senior Chinese Communist Party official who was a close aide to former president Hu Jintao, has been removed from his post amid a corruption investigation, state media said on Wednesday. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (AFP) - A senior Chinese Communist Party official who was a close aide to former president Hu Jintao has been removed from his post, state media said on Wednesday, amid a corruption investigation.

Mr Ling Jihua - whose son died in a Ferrari crash in Beijing in 2012 - was dismissed as the head of the United Front Work Department of the party's Central Committee, the official party mouthpiece the People's Daily said in a one-line report.

Anti-corruption authorities have opened an investigation into Mr Ling for "suspected serious disciplinary violations" - normally a euphemism for corruption - the official Xinhua News Agency reported last week.

He is also vice-chairman of the national committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, a top advisory body, although it was not immediately clear if he had also been removed from that post.

Mr Ling found himself in the media spotlight after the death of his son Ling Gu in March 2012.

Two young women who were also in the Ferrari - one nude and the other partly clothed - were seriously injured.

Despite a media blackout surrounding the crash, Internet users questioned how the son of a party official could afford a car worth a reported 5 million yuan (S$1.06 million).

Mr Ling Jihua was removed from a key party post and given a less high-profile position after the accident, which added to public perceptions in China of corrupt and high-living officials.

A number of his relatives have also fallen, with the party in June announcing an investigation into his brother Ling Zhengce, a former provincial politician, for "serious discipline violations".

News magazine Caixin reported on Monday that his brother-in-law Gu Yuanxiu had also been taken away for investigation on the same vague charges.

The Communist Party's anti-corruption drive began after Xi Jinping took its helm two years ago, with the powerful former security chief Zhou Yongkang being the highest-ranking official ensnared.

The campaign has netted high-level "tigers" as well as low-level "flies", but critics say the faction-ridden ruling party has failed to introduce systemic reforms to prevent corruption such as public disclosure of assets.