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Teenage honeytrap who brought down Chinese Communist Party official after explicit tape pictures were leaked online
Honeytrap: Prostitute-turned-nurse Zhao Hongxia (pictured) secretly film herself having sex with a Chinese Communist Party official after being hired by a construction company to blackmail him
This is the girl filmed having sex with a Chinese Communist Party official in a leaked internet video which has sent shockwaves across the country, it can be revealed today.
Lei Zhengfu, a district party chief in the southwestern city of Chongqing, was fired from his position as district party secretary after the video went viral earlier this month.
It was initially said the woman was his mistress, but it has emerged she was actually a prostitute allegedly hired by a construction company to extort favourable contracts from him.
Zhao Hongxia, who was 18 at the time the video was filmed in 2007, wrote on a blog that she was paid £5,000 to sleep with Mr Lei which she used to pay for her father's medical bills.
Now a 23-year-old nurse, she said she was offered the money by the head of a property company.
According to the Daily Telegraph, she wrote: 'He was straightforward, asking me if I wanted to be a prostitute serving some government officials that he had a business relationship with.'
The tape has caused yet another scandal for China's ruling Communists in the city formerly led by fallen politician Bo Xilai.
But it may just be the beginning as a whistleblowing former journalist has said he may release similar tapes of more city officials soon.
The party is already reeling from the scandal which triggered Bo's purge and further battered the party's reputation in the public mind.
Chongqing, the city that he 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 a British businessman, and Bo himself faces allegations of corruption and obstruction of justice in the murder case.
News of the sex tape, which was apparently shot in 2007, but only leaked this month, comes as China's newly installed leadership ramps up anti-corruption efforts as it deals with a steady stream of bribery and graft cases that it fears has undermined its authority.
The tape exploded on the Chinese internet on November 20 when screenshots of it were uploaded by Beijing-based former journalist Zhu Ruifeng to his Hong Kong-registered website, an independent online clearing house for corruption allegations.
'Extortion': Zhao Hongxia (left) , who was 18 at the time the video was filmed in 2007, wrote on a blog that she was paid £5,000 to sleep with Lei Zhengfu (right) which she used to pay for her father's medical bills
The lurid images, apparently taken secretly from a bedside table, show Lei having sex with a woman.
Zhu told The Associated Press that Zhao, whose face is not visible in the screen grabs, was hired by a construction company to sleep with Lei in return for construction contracts.
The company later tried to use the tape to extort more business from Lei, he said.
Zhu said 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.
Zhu said that after the blackmail attempt, Lei reported the case to Chongqing officials sometime around 2009, which led to the construction boss being jailed for a year on unrelated charges and the woman being detained for a month.
Xinhua reported yesterday that Chongqing's corruption watchdog had pledged a thorough investigation of Lei, who was dismissed on Friday, but said it had yet to formally receive a report about the allegations against Lei or the footage.
The China Daily in an editorial today said the case showed that the 'internet is worth being embraced by the country's corruption busters as a close ally'.
It also called for greater transparency in handling this and other cases, and listed a few of the lingering questions that the salacious case has thrown up.
'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.'
Revealed: Screenshots from the video showed Mr Zhengfu, the party boss of Chongqing's Beibei District, having sex with his mistress
Disciplined: The Communist Party held an internal investigation into the video after it was first posted
With a younger set of incoming leaders announced this month in Beijing, the government is keen to show that those in power are worthy of their posts and that wrongdoers will be weeded out.
In his first remarks to the press after being appointed as the new Communist Party chief, Xi Jinping vowed to tackle corruption.
The party's corruption watchdog underlined its zero-tolerance for corruption yesterday.
'There is no place for corrupt figures to hide away within the party,' the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said in a statement quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency.
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.
Xiao Weilong, 30, an insurance salesman in Beijing, bemoaned how 'ordinary people can't do anything about' cases such as Lei's.
'These sorts of abnormal things have become the norm, and we don't have any say,' he said.
Zhu, the journalist who broke the Lei story, said the fact that his website had not been blocked despite the allegations it outlined was a possible sign that the government is more serious than in the past getting tough on corruption.
'Possibly what we are seeing is that the new leaders are perhaps taking steps toward enforcing the constitution, a sliver of a new dawn,' he said.
THE CHINESE ELITE AND THE KEEPING OF 'SECOND WIVES'
The Chinese term for mistress — ernai; or second wife — is thought to go back to the polygamous tradition that developed amongst some of the country's ruling elite during the country's imperial period.
Keeping a mistress is still viewed as a status symbol among some senior Chinese government officials and wealthy businessmen as has been revealed by recent scandals - including that of Lei Zhengfu.
Some Government ministers have been revealed to have had multiple mistresses. One former minister is believed to have had as many as 18 mistresses, according to the New York Times.
The women involved are often bought lavish gifts by their lover, from jewellery to luxury apartments and sports cars.
The issue has, however, led to a growing public backlash, as stories of the excesses involved have beaten the state's censors to been leaked onto the internet.