Corruption-scarred Chinese city reeling from scandal as sex tape implicates Communist official
A FIVE-year-old sex tape of an 18-year-old woman allegedly hired by developers to sleep with a city official is causing yet another scandal for China’s ruling Communists in the city formerly led by fallen politician Bo Xilai.
The official, Lei Zhengfu, was last week fired from his position as district party secretary after the video, an apparent extortion attempt, went viral and his jowly, pop-eyed face became the butt of numerous internet caricatures.
However, the scandal may still be growing, as a whistleblowing former journalist says he may release similar video of more party officials soon.
The party, which recently adopted younger leadership, is already reeling from the scandal that triggered Bo’s purge and further battered the party’s reputation in the public mind.
Chongqing, the city that Bo ran, has been depicted by prosecutors and state media as rife with cover-ups, abuse of power and corruption. Bo’s wife was convicted of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood, and Bo himself faces allegations of corruption and obstruction of justice in the murder case.
The tape exploded on the internet on 20 November when screenshots of it were uploaded by a Beijing-based former journalist, Zhu Ruifeng, to his Hong Kong-registered website, an independent online clearinghouse for corruption allegations.
The lurid images, apparently taken secretly from a bedside table, show Lei having sex with a woman. Mr Zhu said that the woman, whose face is not visible in the screen grabs, was hired by a construction company to sleep with Lei in return for contracts. The company later tried to use the recording to extort more business from Lei, he said.
Mr Zhu says he obtained the video from someone inside the Chongqing Public Security Bureau, who gave it on condition of anonymity. He said he was also given tapes implicating five other Chongqing officials but is trying to verify their content before releasing them.
Mr Zhu said that after the blackmail attempt, Lei reported the case to Chongqing officials in 2009, which led to the construction boss being jailed for a year on unrelated charges and the woman being detained for a month.
The party mouthpiece China Daily, in an editorial yesterday, said the case showed that the “internet is worth being embraced by the country’s corruption busters as a close ally”.
“Strangely, the mistress was once detained and the contractor jailed for blackmailing Lei,” it said. “What had happened? … These are crucial questions waiting to be answered,” it said.
Many Chinese, however, are cynical about the allegations against high-profile party members and that they signal a true crackdown on corruption. Many think Bo was no more or less dirty than the average Chinese politician and that he was deposed not for his behaviour but because he was on the losing end of factional power struggle.
Mr Zhu said the fact that his website had not been blocked despite the allegations it outlined was a possible sign that the new government is more serious about getting tough on corruption.
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