BEIJING (Reuters) - China expelled a disgraced senior aide to former President Hu Jintao from a high-profile advisory body on Saturday, the official Xinhua news agency reported on its website, marking the latest step in a significant political scandal.
Ling Jihua heads a Communist Party body charged with reaching out to non-Communists and holds a rank equivalent to vice premier. The largely ceremonial advisory council also dismissed former spy boss Ma Jian and Zhu Mingguo, once a senior official in the southern export powerhouse province of Guangdong, according to media reports. Both have been accused of graft.
Ling was demoted in September 2012 after sources said his son was involved in a deadly crash involving an expensive sports car in an embarrassment to the party, which is sensitive to public criticism that its officials and their families lead lifestyles of excess.
Ling was dropped from his post as head of the party’s General Office of the Central Committee, a powerful post similar to cabinet secretary in governments modeled after the politics of the United Kingdom, such as Australia and Canada.
He was then appointed as minister for the less influential United Front Work Department, which is in charge of co-opting non-Communists, religious groups and ethnic minorities.
The country’s National People’s Congress, a largely rubber-stamp parliament, also cast out Liu Zheng, a former deputy director of the powerful General Logistics Department of the People’s Liberation Army, who is being investigated for corruption, state media reported on Saturday.
The development, which comes as China’s leadership pursues a campaign to weed out corruption and excess in its armed forces, is significant because it means Liu has been stripped of immunity from prosecution as a member of parliament.
Liu is under investigation, the Ministry of Defence said in January, accused of “seriously violating party discipline”, a euphemism for graft.
Serving and retired Chinese military officers have said graft in the armed forces is so pervasive it could undermine China’s ability to wage war.
China’s campaign to rid its military of corruption has ensnared several high-ranking officials, including Xu Caihou, who retired as vice chairman of the Central Military Commission last year.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed to target high-flying “tigers” as well as lowly “flies” in his anti-corruption campaign.
Reporting by Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Michael Perry and Louise Heavens