Category Archives: Chongqing Model/Bo Xilai

“Bo Xilai’s son returns to China to play role in father’s ‘imminent’ trial”

So… is this thing actually happening? Rumors have been surfacing that claim Bo Xilai will be put on trial tomorrow night. I’ve seen a few facts put forth that make that seem unlikely, but would anyone really be surprised by the Party doing this suddenly and without warning? I guess we’ll see in a few hours. Malcolm Moore with some details:

Bo Guagua’s return to Beijing comes amid rumours that his father’s trial is imminent.

Mingjing News, a Hong Kong newspaper which has been more often wrong than right about Communist party politics, reported that the trial will begin on Monday in Changsha, the capital of Hunan province.

Mr Bo is likely to be put on trial in a “neutral” location, well away from his power bases in Beijing, Chongqing and Dalian.

But Changsha, if correct, would be a theatrical flourish by the Party leadership: it is the home city of Mao Tse-tung, whose revolutionary ideology Mr Bo so often espoused.

One post on Weibo suggested that all Chinese newspapers have been instructed to “clear space” for major news arriving today or tomorrow.

However, one diplomatic source said the news could be Mr Bo’s indictment, rather than an actual trial. “I heard a rumour that charges will be laid at the court on October 15 or 16. If so, according to the criminal procedure law, a trial would follow within 15 days,” he added.

That leaves just enough time for the Party to wrap up the deeply divisive case before it opens its 18th Party Congress on November 8 and readies a once-in-a-decade change of its top leaders.

The younger Mr Bo will also have to tread carefully: some experts have said the evidence presented at his mother’s trial and at the trial of Wang Lijun, his father’s chief of police, could incriminate him.

“They laid the ground to bring charges against Bo Guagua if they want. If not, it means they have done a deal,” said the diplomatic source.

UPDATE: Turns out Bo Guagua may not even be in China, so… oops. More on this when it either happens or doesn’t happen.

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“The Bo Xilai Case: China’s Pandora’s Box”

Evan Osnos on the verdict we’ve all been waiting for– Bo, guilty:

The Chinese Communist Party has just done something it hates to do: hang its dirty laundry out in public. With a level of force and lurid color that surprised just about everyone who pays attention to these things, on Friday the Party ended the greatest guessing game in Chinese politics by unveiling the charges against the once-golden politician Bo Xilai.

According to the announcement of the charges, Bo “abused his power, made severe mistakes, and bore major responsibility” for the attempted defection of a powerful police chief and the murder of a British businessman (a crime for which his wife was convicted). In other words, the state is saying that he had a hand in killing or covering up the killing of a foreigner, and that he failed to prevent a bearer of secrets from attempting to flee.

There’s more: “He took advantage of his office to seek profits for others and received huge bribes personally and through his family. His position was also abused by his wife, Bogu Kailai, to seek profits for others, and his family thereby accepted a huge amount of money and property from others.” In today’s China, what is a “huge amount”? Well, Bloomberg figured that Bo’s in-laws had more than a hundred million dollars in assets. And those are the ones we know about. “Bo had affairs and maintained improper sexual relationships with a number of women.” Plural? The émigré journalist Jiang Weiping has estimated that Bo had somewhere around a hundred mistresses.

One of the biggest surprises in these charges is that the Party didn’t confine its attention to the dramatic events of this spring and declare victory. On the contrary, they harkened back to virtually his full political career, accusing of him impropriety as early as his posts in Manchuria, where he was first stationed in 1984. That’s a quarter century of opportunities, and for years, Bo was said to have been involved in corruption. But nobody ever thought he would be prosecuted for it, not any more than they think that the other members of the Politburo who are routinely subject to rumors about corruption will ever see a day in court.

And therein lies the powder keg at the center of the Bo Xilai case. In seeking to purge him with a finality that can restore short-term political balance, the Party may have raised a more dangerous spectre: the full-scale accounting of a life in government. The results could reveal a culture of self-dealing and personal enrichment that exceeds even the Chinese public’s considerable tolerance of official abuse. It may start a conversation that will be hard to end.

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Filed under China, Chongqing Model/Bo Xilai, Communist Party

“China jails former police chief Wang Lijun for 15 years”

Speculation seems to point in the direction of Wang being the last piece of the puzzle the Party wanted to square away before moving on to Bo himself, so now we have to wonder what exactly will happen next (via The Guardian):

China has spared the high-flying police chief whose flight to a US consulate led to the toppling of leader Bo Xilai, with a court in Chengdu handing him a relatively lenient 15 year jail sentence on Monday.

Wang Lijun, 52, had previously been Bo’s right hand man in Chongqing, winning plaudits for the pair’s populist anti-gang crackdown and earning a promotion to vice mayor.

State news agency Xinhua said the Chengdu intermediate people’s court found him guilty of defection, accepting bribes of at least 3 million yuan, abuse of power and bending the law to selfish ends by covering up the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood by Bo’s wife Gu Kailai.

Gu was last month handed a suspended death sentence for the crime, while an aide who helped her was jailed for nine years.

“[Fifteen years] was in the realm of expectations but I would say on the low end of what most people were expecting,” said Joshua Rosenzweig, an expert on the Chinese criminal justice system.

A subsequent report from state news agency Xinhua formally linked Bo to the case for the first time – raising the chances of him too facing trial.

Although it mentioned him only by position, rather than name, it described him scolding and hitting Wang after he alleged that Gu had murdered Heywood.

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“Bo’s Downfall Is Tied to Wiretapping”

Alright, this one might be the most definitive account of exactly what got Bo in so much trouble- as it turns out, people speculating that the death of Mr. Heywood was just an excuse may have been pretty close to the truth. Nothing new about Zhou Yongkang, although note the allegations that Fang Binxing may have been involved, which could mean that we’ll end up seeing another enormously satisfying casualty before this thing ends:

When Hu Jintao, China’s top leader, picked up the telephone last August to talk to a senior anticorruption official visiting Chongqing, special devices detected that he was being wiretapped — by local officials in that southwestern metropolis.

The discovery of that and other wiretapping led to an official investigation that helped topple Chongqing’s charismatic leader, Bo Xilai, in a political cataclysm that has yet to reach a conclusion.

Nearly a dozen sources with party ties, speaking anonymously for fear of retribution, confirmed the wiretapping, as well as a widespread program of bugging across Chongqing. But the party’s public version of Mr. Bo’s fall omits it.

The murder account is pivotal to the scandal, providing Mr. Bo’s opponents with an unassailable reason to have him removed. But party insiders say the wiretapping was seen as a direct challenge to central authorities. It revealed to them just how far Mr. Bo, who is now being investigated for serious disciplinary violations, was prepared to go in his efforts to grasp greater power in China. That compounded suspicions that Mr. Bo could not be trusted with a top slot in the party, which is due to reshuffle its senior leadership positions this fall.

The architect was Mr. Wang, a nationally decorated crime-fighter who had worked under Mr. Bo in the northeast province of Liaoning. Together they installed “a comprehensive package bugging system covering telecommunications to the Internet,” according to the government media official.

One of several noted cyber-security experts they enlisted was Fang Binxing, president of Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, who is often called the father of China’s “Great Firewall,” the nation’s vast Internet censorship system.

“Bo wanted to push the responsibility onto Wang,” one senior party official said. “Wang couldn’t dare say it was Bo’s doing.”

Yet at some point well before fleeing Chongqing, Mr. Wang filed a pair of complaints to the inspection commission, the first anonymously and the second under his own name, according to a party academic with ties to Mr. Bo.

Both complaints said Mr. Bo had “opposed party central” authorities, including ordering the wiretapping of central leaders. The requests to investigate Mr. Bo were turned down at the time. Mr. Bo, who learned of the charges at a later point, told the academic shortly before his dismissal that he thought he could withstand Mr. Wang’s charges.

Alright, if Zhou Yongkang is still going to coast through this one, having Fang Binxing disgraced and blacklisted by Beijing would be almost as good. He may have survived having a pair of shoes thrown at him by a Chinese student, but surviving the aftermath of colluding with a surveillance scheme aimed at Zhongnanhai might be harder.

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Filed under 2012 power transfer, Chongqing Model/Bo Xilai, surveillance

“In Bo Xilai scandal, China’s national leaders fear their undoing”

The latest from Tom Lasseter on the Bo scandal:

Many Chinese already have little or no trust in local officials and their allies, who they often believe are corrupt, venal and, at times, murderous. Should they come to believe the same about national figures, then the careful dance that takes place whenever there is unrest in China – people pinning hopes on intervention from the central government – could lose its footing.

In a nation known for reliance on police state tactics, it’s difficult to predict what might follow.

Viewed from the outside, China is a rising economic juggernaut poised for greatness. At home, however, it has struggled to contain the corrosive effects of corruption and abuse of power by officials and their allies. Although hundreds of millions of Chinese were lifted from extreme poverty in the past three decades of growth managed by the Communist Party, public resentment has grown over the widening gap in wealth and privilege.

The story of Bo and his family threatens to feed that dissatisfaction, suggesting an elite increasingly removed from those it governs, a Mafia-like clutch of political families who’ve enriched themselves through corruption.

This past week, notices from the Chongqing public security bureau were plastered on one wall after another in Wansheng, which was absorbed by a neighboring district in December. They gave a long list of infractions that would meet with punishment, including disrupting traffic, confusing the public with rumors, participating in illegal rallies and transmitting slogans by cellphone texts or Internet messages. Guilty parties should turn themselves in or bear serious consequences, the signs said.

At a shop close to a main square, where police vans were still parked along the side of the road, a group of locals looked up nervously when asked why there hadn’t been an initial political solution to their grievances.

One middle-aged man in an olive blazer stood up to leave the shop and, as he passed a reporter, said, “The Chinese government is the most corrupted …” He did not finish the sentence.

A woman behind the counter said that it might be better for the reporter to leave.

“If the police come they will hold me responsible for having you here,” she said. She, like the others, did not give her name.

Another, younger man, sitting on a red stool, asked the room, with scorn in his voice, “Is it useful to write letters in the world of the Communist Party?”

People got quiet. Soon, the shop was empty.

There was another WaPo piece today covering the potential Zhou Yongkang tie-in and the chances of seeing him removed before he has to retire late this year, but they sadly didn’t have much new evidence to add to the case.

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“Zhou Yongkang, China Security Chief, Investigated As Bo Xilai Scandal Expands”

Please be true, please be true, please be true, please be true, please be true, please be true:

China’s leaders want Bo Xilai’s downfall seen as a blow against corruption – not as part of a power struggle. But with a second, even higher-ranking Politburo member now suspected to be under pressure, it will become difficult to avoid the perception of all-out infighting.

Moves against Zhou Yongkang, China’s security chief, could undermine attempts to portray the Bo scandal as a fight to uphold the rule of law and would reinforce a skeptical public’s view that the Communist Party is in disarray months before a once-a-decade transfer of power to new leaders.

“Internally, the power struggle is getting more intense and, if true, Zhou’s removal would be seriously damaging,” Beijing-based political analyst Li Fan said.

Zhou, 72, is widely reported to have been the only leading official to have argued against last week’s striking decision to suspend Bo’s membership in the 25-seat Politburo – a step that effectively ended the political career of one of China’s most ambitious and high-profile politicians.

Bo’s removal has fueled cynicism among ordinary Chinese, leading to a flood of rumors and speculation – much of it online – about political feuding among the leaders and even attempted coups. Taking down Zhou would only reinforce such views, said Joseph Cheng, who heads the Contemporary China Research Center at the City University of Hong Kong.

“It furthers the perception that all cadres are corrupt and all corruption investigations are political,” said Cheng, who believes Hu would prefer to sidestep further conflict by allowing Zhou to retire after this fall’s party congress as originally expected.

The only way the Bo Xilai affair could get any better is if it spells an end to Zhou Yongkang as well. Don’t let me down, Boxun.


Filed under 2012 power transfer, Chongqing Model/Bo Xilai

“Utopia website shutdown: interview with Fan Jinggang”

Alright, hard to beat the irony of the hard-left Maoist figures getting censored and shut down by the same heavy-handed authoritarian state they’ve always supported. A Danwei writer interviewed Fan Jinggang, the man behind one of the biggest sites in the neo-Maoist revival, and you have to enjoy the undercurrent of crow-eating throughout the piece:

In the days immediately following Bo’s removal from his post as Party Secretary and head of Chongqing on March 15, Utopia had experienced connectivity issues. Fan said that this could have been a server problem – “judging from our server’s data, it was mainly caused by the sharp rise of visits that went beyond the system capacity,” but he isn’t shy of offering some vague conspiracy theorizing, adding that “it’s also possible certain forces, domestic or overseas, maliciously attacked our website.”

He was being disingenuous: at the same time that Utopia was having problems, other Maoist websites such as Mao Flag and Red China went offline or displayed “under maintenance” messages which is what Chinese websites often show when ordered to be shut down. But Utopia continued publishing – until Friday April 6, when the authorities paid Fan Jinggang a visit, shortly before we spoke.

Fan seemed unfazed by the encounter; a few days later, though, Fan told me he could no longer answer follow-up questions: Bo Xilai, it had been officially announced, was now under central investigation and the clampdown was in full swing.

Despite Utopia’s pugnacious attitude towards liberals and the government’s current worries about the website, it’s worth mentioning how unthreatening Fan and his store appear. His small, sixth-storey bookshop — left out the lift, past the masseuse, hit the smell of mildew and you’re there — has nothing on its shelves to sound any alarms. The titles — The Secret of American Hegemony, The End of the American Century, China’s Prosperity About to Go Bust?, 25 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism! — have the tone of harmless public eccentrics, buttonholing readers with cranky political theories.

Fan sees Utopia as defending the “interests of the country and the people” against the self-interests of the reformers. Many are receptive to his ideas: Utopia claims 500 million total visits, and Fan says the site recently rose to being among the top 600 sites in the PRC. The 200,000 or so articles they have published were submitted by “big-city readers… mostly intellectuals who are concerned about China’s society and economy… 90 percent of them are supporters of our general idea.”

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Filed under censorship, Chongqing Model/Bo Xilai, Maoism