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Aide to former Chinese president Hu Jintao jailed for life

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Ling Jihua at the closing of the 18th Communist Party Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 14, 2012/AFP

Ling Jihua at the closing of the 18th Communist Party Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 14, 2012/AFP

BEIJING, China, Jul 4 – An ex-aide of former Chinese president Hu Jintao has been jailed for life for corruption, illegally obtaining state secrets and abuse of power, official media reported Monday.

Ling Jihua pleaded guilty and said he would not appeal, Xinhua news agency said, citing the verdict of the First Intermediate People’s Court in Tianjin, which held his trial in secret last month.

“The trial today is engraved on my bones and in my heart,” it quoted Ling as saying in his final statement to the court.

His case was the lead item on state broadcasters CCTV’s nightly news programme which showed the former official, wearing a white shirt and glasses, humbly accepting his sentence.

“I take this opportunity to express thanks to the court for a trial in accordance with the law and its humane treatment,” he said.

Chinese courts are controlled by the ruling Communist party, which expelled Ling — once Hu’s chief of staff — from its ranks last year.

The verdict and sentence come as part of a high-profile corruption crackdown by current President Xi Jinping that has deposed of several senior officials, notably former security chief Zhou Yongkang, who was himself jailed for life last year.

Graft is endemic in China’s authoritarian system, and Xi has acknowledged it as a threat to the ruling party’s survival.

But critics say that a lack of transparency around the purge means it has been an opportunity for Xi to eliminate political enemies.

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– ‘Lenient sentence’ –

Ling’s son died in a notorious Ferrari crash in Beijing that disrupted the once-in-a-decade party leadership change when Xi took over from Hu in 2012.

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