Brother of former senior Chinese official probed for graft

BEIJING, June 19 Thu Jun 19, 2014 7:20am EDT

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BEIJING, June 19 (Reuters) - A senior official in China's coal-rich northern province of Shanxi is being investigated on suspicion of corruption, the government said on Thursday, a man the Chinese media say is the brother of a former top presidential aide.

Ling Zhengce, deputy head of the Shanxi branch of a parliamentary advisory body, is being probed for suspected "serious discipline and law violations", the Communist Party's anti-graft body said, using a euphemism that usually refers to corruption.

It gave no other details and the official could not be reached for comment.

Ling Zhengce is the elder brother of Ling Jihua, a former senior aide to former president Hu Jintao, several previous reports in Chinese media have said.

Ling Jihua was demoted in September 2012 after sources said his son was involved in a deadly crash involving a luxury sports car.

The car - a Ferrari according to some of the sources - crashed in Beijing in March 2012 in an embarrassment for the ruling Communist Party, which is sensitive to perceptions that children of top party officials live rich, privileged lifestyles completely out of touch with the masses, the sources said.

Ling Jihua 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 Westminster-style governments.

He was then appointed to head the less influential United Front Work Department, which is in charge of co-opting non-Communists, religious groups and ethnic minorities, a post he still holds.

Sources with ties to the leadership say that Ling Jihua, who is very close to Hu, was spared a probe himself to avoid discomfiting Hu, who gave up all his official positions, including head of the military, to his successor Xi Jinping in a leadership transition that was smoothly completed last year.

Hu's predecessor, Jiang Zemin, remained head of the military for two years after giving up the presidency and the party's top position, limiting Hu's own power.

China's campaign against deep-rooted official corruption has intensified since Xi took over as president, with several senior government figures and state company executives in detention.

The government also said that Shanxi deputy governor Du Shanxue was being investigated. It provided no details.

Party graft investigators began a probe in Shanxi late last year, as part of a series of probes that have targeted provinces and government ministries and departments.

Shanxi's governor is Li Xiaopeng, the son of former premier Li Peng, a man deeply involved in the government's bloody crackdown on pro-demoracy demonstrators around Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Benjamin Kang Lim; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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