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June 27, 2017

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Web empowers voters to keep campaigns honest

Leadership transitions in both the U.S. and mainland China have hit the home stretch with some good old quasi-lies and "creative rendering" of truths.

Just as China is reeling from the impact of the downfall of Bo Xilai and his wife Gu Kailai, the communist country's once-in-a-decade leadership turnover was again hit this week by a stranger-than-fiction scandal involving a possibly ominously misidentified princeling killed in a car crash in Beijing, in a possible Ferrari possibly along with two naked women.

When news broke out of the March 18 crash, mainland media first identified the killed man by his last name "Jia." The mainland blogosphere immediately speculated that "Jia" was an illegitimate son of Jia Qinglin, member of mainland China's nine-man-strong top leadership and former President Jiang Zemin's protege. Netizens criticized the deceased man in his 20s as part of the "rich second generation"; sons or daughters of senior Chinese officials or business leaders who enjoy undue privileges or lead decadent lifestyles.

The story took a bizarre twist on Monday when Hong Kong-based English newspaper The South China Morning Post (SCMP) quoted Beijing sources as confirming the identification of the dead man as Ling Gu, son of Ling Jihua, a high-ranking mainland official and close ally to mainland President Hu Jintao. Ling Jihua was last week demoted to a ceremonial position and is believed to have lost the chance of advancement in the upcoming leadership change.

The SCMP reported that Ling junior was misidentified as "Jia," which also has the same pronunciation as the word "fake" in Mandarin, in an alleged cover-up. The newspaper reported an intense moment between the current president and his predecessor when Hu was confronted by Jiang, who handed him a secret investigation report ordered by an angry Jia Qinglin. Hu and Jiang are widely seen as rivals jockeying to send their own proteges to the top leadership in order to ensure their own continued influence.

All these details of political intrigue are, not surprisingly, yet to be confirmed or denied by the Chinese authorities. The Beijing government and the police declined to comment on the car accident.

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