China official charged in sex scandal amid microblog uproar

BEIJING Fri May 3, 2013 7:19am EDT

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China will charge a district Communist Party official with corruption, which carries a maximum penalty of death, after images of him having sex with his mistress were splashed across microblog websites last year, state media said on Friday.

Graphic video footage of Lei Zhengfu, a district party chief in the southwestern city of Chongqing, and his mistress was widely circulated on the Internet, causing an uproar among microbloggers. Lei was later sacked.

Party officials are banned from having mistresses, and the video came to symbolize in many people's eyes the excesses and corruption of the ruling elite. The case shows the party's growing sensitivity to public anger against abuse of power and official impunity.

President Xi Jinping has called for a crackdown on corruption, warning, as have many before him, that the problem is so severe it could threaten the party's survival.

But no senior officials have been fired or prosecuted for graft since Xi came to power.

Ten other officials were sacked after appearing in similar videos, Xinhua said.

They include county- and district-level officials and the heads of state-owned firms in Chongqing, the power-base of now-disgraced former top leader Bo Xilai, who was dramatically sacked last year amid lurid allegations of corruption and murder.

(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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