During a Beijing spring filled with salacious political gossip about the downfall of senior government official Bo Xilai, the March 18 crash of a Ferrari on the outskirts of the city was just one more shocking episode in this cloistered capital. As the rumor mill in Beijing worked overtime, I heard scandalous but totally unconfirmed whispers from Chinese journalists employed at government-run publications and other well-sourced insiders. The driver of the black Italian sports car was the son of a high-ranking government official, they alleged. There were two young women in the car. Astonishingly, the ladies were not members of China’s Han-ethnic majority, but Tibetans. One (or more) of the car’s occupants had perished in the crash.

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