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China formally charges former aide to retired president

China’s state prosecutor on Friday formally charged a former senior aide to retired president Hu Jintao with taking bribes, illegally obtaining state secrets and abuse of power.

China formally charges Ling Jihua-AV

The ruling Communist Party announced an investigation into Ling Jihua in December 2014. He had been demoted in September 2012 from a ministerial-level job months after his son was killed in a crash involving a luxury sports car.

The charges are the latest development in a case that the party has said did major damage to its image.

Ling used his many high-ranking positions in government as a way to solicit bribes, seek favours for friends and illegally obtain state secrets, the prosecutor said, without specifying the nature of the secrets.

The circumstances were “extremely serious”, the prosecutor added in a terse statement that was also read on state television.

Ling’s case was lodged at a court in the port city of Tianjin, not far from Beijing, meaning he will be tried there.

It has not been possible to reach Ling for comment.

The prosecutor said authorities had informed Ling about his rights in line with the law, questioned him and heard “opinions” from his lawyer.

It was not clear who the lawyer is, or if he was appointed for Ling by the party.

Ling’s case presents a dilemma for the government, because of his close connection with former president Hu, President Xi Jinping’s predecessor.

A government spokesman denied last year that Hu was being implicated in the investigation and sources have told Reuters Hu approved of it.

The formal charges pave the way for a criminal trial, but because Ling is accused of stealing state secrets, the proceedings may be closed to the public.

It is also unclear when a trial could be held. If it is held in secret, state media could simply announce a verdict.

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