China dismisses Bo Xilai as head of party in Chongqing

Reply Thu 15 Mar, 2012 10:16 am
Mar. 14, 2012
China dismisses Bo Xilai as head of party in Chongqing
Tom Lasseter | McClatchy Newspapers

BEIJING — Bo Xilai, a man recently seen as headed for the center of power in China, was removed from his office as the Chinese Communist Party chief of the mega-city of Chongqing, a stunning turnabout for one of the nation's most controversial politicians.

A terse statement posted Thursday morning on a website run by the official Xinhua news service said that Bo would be replaced in Chongqing by the nation's vice premier, Zhang Dejiang. It did not specify whether Bo also would lose his seat on the nation's 25-member politburo.

Bo's dismissal appeared to be part of a power struggle beneath the surface of China's ruling elite. Bo was widely seen as a leading candidate to be appointed this year for the standing committee of the politburo, a promotion that would have put him at the center of power in the second-largest economy in the world.

There was widespread speculation that Bo's rise made some senior Chinese Communist Party leaders nervous. He was famous, or infamous, depending on the audience, for launching a populist political campaign in Chongqing that combined both anti-corruption crackdowns and a revival of Mao Zedong-era culture.

On Wednesday, Premier Wen Jiabao warned that unless the nation continued to pursue political reform, it risked sliding into turbulence like that of the Cultural Revolution, a chaotic period sparked by Mao that displaced, injured or killed millions beginning in 1966.

Those highly unusual remarks by Wen — the Cultural Revolution is rarely discussed openly — appeared at the time to in part be a condemnation of Bo's approach. That impression was cemented by the announcement Thursday morning.

Bo's ascent to power had taken a heavy blow in early February after his former police chief showed up at an American consulate, spent the night and, perhaps, sought asylum. The former security head, Wang Lijun, was placed under central government investigation. A separate Xinhua item on Thursday morning said the central government had also decided to remove Wang from the position of vice mayor of Chongqing.

Bo’s political fate remained uncertain in the aftermath. He made the journey to Beijing for the annual rubber stamp National People’s Congress this month and, except for a missed meeting, gave no obvious signs of being on the way out.

Bo's political fate remained uncertain in the aftermath. He made the journey to Beijing for the annual rubber stamp National People's Congress this month and, except for a missed session, gave no obvious signs of being on the way out.

At a news conference on the sidelines of the People's Congress last Friday, Bo said he was surprised by the events surrounding Wang Lijun and acknowledged poor management on his part. Bo said he wanted it known that he was not under investigation and that he had not offered to resign. He also sought to clear up other reports that he said were false, including his family's wealth and sightings of his son driving a red Ferrari.

Bo also warned that the widening wealth divide in China could mean the nation going down "a wrong road." He extolled Chongqing as an example of a place that was seeking to address those dangers.

On Wednesday, Wen Jiabao also referred to problems like income disparity in China and their links to social tensions. But he, and other Chinese leaders, apparently did not think that Bo, who favored a resurgence of Maoist culture, was the right man for the job.

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Reply Thu 15 Mar, 2012 10:19 am
Mar. 09, 2012
Chinese politician 'surprised' by scandal surrounding his former deputy
Tom Lasseter | McClatchy Newspapers

BEIJING — Bo Xilai, a charismatic politician who until recently was thought to be on his way to becoming one of the most powerful men in China, offered his first comments Friday on a wave of scandal that has shaken his ambitions.

Making an appearance before a select group of reporters at the National People's Congress, Bo, party secretary of the megacity of Chongqing, said he was surprised by the developments surrounding his once close aide, Wang Lijun. Wang last month spent a still unexplained night at an American consulate last month, and some reports have said Wang was seeking asylum but that U.S. diplomats refused his request.

Bo's appointment to the nation's politburo standing committee, the center of its authoritarian Chinese Communist Party, may have been unraveled by the events. On Friday, Bo said that Wang, a former Chongqing police chief who gained fame for leading a crackdown on organized crime and corruption, is now under official investigation, according to a pool report of the event by Bloomberg News and a transcription provided by another reporter in attendance.

Bo declined to provide details of the investigation, but he faulted himself for poor personnel management in Wang's case. Wang was also Chongqing's vice mayor.

Highlighting the unusual circumstance in which Bo finds himself, the Chongqing delegation at China's annual National People's Congress did not open its panel to the full reporting corps, as is standard practice, instead admitting only a small group. Chongqing representatives at first explained that decision to a throng of dozens of reporters by blaming the smallness of their meeting space at the Great Hall of the People, and later by denying that the event was a standard meeting.

In his comments, Bo, 62, sought to rebut a series of allegations that have given his reputation a serious tumble. He said that he was not a target of a government investigation. Bo clarified that he hadn't offered to resign. He said he missed the previous day's session of the People's Congress — his absence was a much-discussed development on Thursday — because he had a cough and didn't feel well. He also denied that his son drives a red Ferrari, as has been previously reported.

The government's examination of Wang, whose anti-crime campaign was closely intertwined with Bo's rise, could be particularly significant because, in the past, inquiries into Chinese officials' underlings have been used to topple the officials themselves.

It's not been made public exactly why Wang showed up at the American consulate in Chengdu, the closest U.S. diplomatic outpost to Chongqing, in early February, or for what charges he is now being investigated. Chongqing officials first announced that Wang was in poor health and receiving "vacation-style treatment."

Rumors have circulated that Wang faced a corruption inquiry and that, with Bo not getting him out of the jam, he'd sought to gain asylum from the Americans in part by exchanging damaging information about officials, perhaps including Bo.

Reports surfaced this week that men identified as police had threatened, and possibly detained, a Chongqing businessman who allegedly had audio recordings of Wang telling him not to publicize accusations of corruption against another businessman.

Before the current imbroglio, Bo had promoted a populist brand of politics thought to be the subject of debate in Beijing's ruling circles. His very public "strike back" approach to corruption and crime in Chongqing tapped into a deep well of public resentment toward widespread graft by officials and those linked to them. He also encouraged a series of events centered on "Red Culture" — public displays that exalted in Mao Zedong-era songs and culture.

People began to speak about a "Chongqing model" in comparison to the "Guangdong model," named for a coastal province in which the leadership is perceived to be more liberal.

At Friday's meeting, Bo pointed to high levels of inequality in China — the sort of grassroots issue that plays to the Chongqing model.

If only a small group of Chinese become rich, Bo said, the nation will "have failed."

That, he warned, would take things down "a wrong road."
Reply Thu 15 Mar, 2012 10:57 am
China Sacks Outspoken Politician As Rumors Swirl
by Louisa Lim - NPR Morning Edition
March 15, 2012

In a moment of high political drama, China has removed flamboyant politician Bo Xilai from his post as party secretary of the major southern city of Chongqing. The sacking comes as Beijing approaches a once-in-a-decade power transition this fall, offering a glimpse of the Machiavellian political struggle behind the scenes.

After weeks of fevered speculation, the end — when it came — was swift and succinct. A single sentence from the official Xinhua News Agency on Thursday ended the career of Bo, who once had seemed headed straight for China's top leadership body, the Politburo Standing Committee.

What's happening to Bo Xilai is fairly obviously a classic case of political intrigue and backstabbing.

- Willy Wo-lap Lam, of the Chinese University of Hong Kong

But his days were numbered after a scandal involving his right-hand man and former police chief, Wang Lijun, who sought refuge last month in the U.S. consulate in Chengdu. Wang, now under investigation and in the custody of Chinese authorities, was removed from his formal position as Chongqing's deputy mayor Thursday.

"What's happening to Bo Xilai is fairly obviously a classic case of political intrigue and backstabbing," says Willy Wo-lap Lam, a veteran China-watcher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. "It's quite possible that the Bo Xilai affair is a recurrence of the political mechanism of one faction using the anti-corruption card against the other."

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao made a thinly veiled attack on Bo during his annual news conference, saying the Chongqing authorities "must seriously reflect on and draw lessons from the Wang Lijun incident."

The prime minister also implicitly criticized Bo's vision for China. Known as the Chongqing model, it involves mass mobilization and a revival of Maoist values. Key elements include singing "red," or Communist, songs; closing the wealth gap; and attacking corruption and organized crime. A crackdown led to 2,000 arrests and 13 executions but spurred criticism of a disregard for due process or the rule of law.

Yang Fan, who wrote a book on the Chongqing model, says Bo's mistakes include being too Maoist, or "leftist" in current Chinese political parlance.

"He has no future. He committed very serious leftist mistakes. Even the leftists in Beijing will all be criticized, and will need to reflect," Yang says. "His mistakes caused insecurity to society, especially senior politicians and rich people in coastal areas. Many moved their money overseas, and even people in Beijing, like me, felt insecure."

At a news conference six days ago, Bo was clearly angry as he addressed corruption rumors swirling around his family, in particular his son, Bo Guagua, who studied at Oxford University and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

"A few people are smearing Chongqing, smearing myself, smearing my family and even saying my son, who studied abroad and drove a red Ferrari. It's a pack of lies. I feel really furious. It's a pack of lies."

Bo's undisguised ambition and his headline-grabbing, polarizing style may have also been his downfall, says Lam of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

"In Beijing, he has many enemies at the top echelons of the party. It's quite possible that they might charge him with either corruption or some sort of economic crimes," Lam says. "It is assumed in political circles in Beijing that when Bo Xilai served for more than 10 years in Liaoning province, he had been the victim of innuendo about corruption and collusion with Chinese mafia elements."

But how to deal with Bo presents a dilemma. Cheng Li from the Brookings Institution believes Bo's popularity in Chongqing means pursuing corruption charges could be seen as unfair, given how widespread corruption is. And Bo's pedigree as a Communist Party princeling — he is the son of revolutionary elder Bo Yibo, one of the "eight immortals" of Communist China — further complicates matters.

"If you do not handle this appropriately, there will be a very serious political crisis," Li says. "This is in my view a wake-up call to really pursue political reforms before being too late. It's really very difficult. Some people in the leadership may not agree with that assessment."

Bo's sacking shows how divided China's top leaders are, much as they might want to present a united front. Some analysts say it also could be a setback for his princeling faction and a boost for a rival faction centered around the Communist Youth League.

But Li believes a negotiated deal was reached that preserves the delicate equilibrium.

"It will not change the balance of power," he says, "because the person who replaces him is Zhang Dejiang, himself also a princeling, also a protege of Jiang Zemin, the former party boss, just like Bo Xilai himself. That means the deal has been made; the balance of power has remained."

China's final leadership lineup won't be clear for many months. But the turbulent transition is under way, and it has already claimed its first high-level victim.
Reply Tue 10 Apr, 2012 11:07 am
Apr. 10, 2012
China fires Bo Xilai from posts, says wife suspected in Briton's death
By Tom Lasseter | McClatchy Newspapers

CHENGDU, China — In a stunning twist in one of China’s biggest political scandals in decades, Chinese state media confirmed Tuesday that Bo Xilai, once seen as headed for the nation’s center of power, has been suspended from his seat on the nation’s politburo and his wife is a suspect in the murder of a British businessman.

The official Xinhua newswire reported that Gu Kailai, Bo’s wife, and a household staff member are “highly suspected” of involvement in the killing of Neil Heywood, who was found dead in Chongqing last November. The pair has been “transferred to judicial authorities on suspected crime of intentional homicide,” Xinhua, the state news agency, reported.

The news from Xinhua, released at about 11 p.m. in China, confirmed rumors that had been swirling around Bo since his removal on March 15 from the position of Chinese Communist Party secretary of the megacity of Chongqing. That seemingly abrupt move came after Chongqing’s former police chief, Wang Lijun, made an unsanctioned trip to a U.S. consulate on Feb. 6 and reportedly sought asylum.

There’d been rumors and allegations that Wang and Bo fell out after Wang reported that a murder investigation concerning Neil Heywood, the dead businessman, might involve Bo’s wife.

The chain of events, which have been unusually public in a nation known for keeping a tight lid on political intrigue, is now certain to have ended Bo’s public career. Until recently, Bo, 62, had widely been seen as a leading candidate for one of nine slots on the politburo standing committee, the core of power in the world’s second-largest economy.
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Reply Tue 10 Apr, 2012 05:29 pm
That happened quickly. I remember hearing speculation about it a little while ago.
Reply Wed 11 Apr, 2012 10:59 am
Apr. 11, 2012
China carefully managing public reaction to Bo Xilai's downfall
Tom Lasseter | McClatchy Newspapers

BEIJING — China's Communist Party sought Wednesday to manage a high-stakes balance between announcing the removal of a once-rising political star from his position and the investigation of his wife in a homicide case with the risk of that news creating public unease.

The official newspaper People's Daily carried a strip of stories and commentary on its front page Wednesday explaining that "serious discipline violations" on Bo's part had necessitated his suspension a day earlier from the 25-seat politburo. Newscasts on radio and TV stations repeated that message.

The allegations about his wife's involvement in the "intentional homicide" of a British businessman last year, Chinese media asserted, came only after careful investigation.

In addition to propaganda messages transmitted through traditional outlets, there appeared to be a campaign to squeeze people's ability to search and comment about the situation on popular websites. The push and pull of those approaches underlined the sensitivity of purging, or something close to it, the controversial son of a Communist Party icon from the ranks of power while also suggesting that his wife could end up behind bars.

An editorial in People's Daily reminded people of the need to keep their thinking in line with the central government's positions, and urged them to "closely unite" with the nation's senior officials, led by party Secretary and President Hu Jintao.

The announcement of Bo's downfall late Tuesday via the state news wire Xinhua was the latest episode in a scandal that's been uncommonly public in a nation famous for its ability to suppress information.

Until recently, Bo was considered a likely candidate for a spot on the nation's ruling politburo standing committee, which is expected to change seven of its nine members later this year.

Bo was removed from his post as the party secretary of the sprawling city of Chongqing last month after his former police chief, Wang Lijun, made an unsanctioned trip to a U.S. consulate, possibly seeking asylum. There were reports that a confrontation with Bo over an investigation into the death of Neil Heywood, a Briton who was found dead last November in Chongqing, sparked Wang's flight to the American diplomatic outpost in the city of Chengdu.

While Heywood's death initially was ruled the result of natural causes, Wang, according to as-yet unverified accounts, reportedly told Bo he thought the man may have been poisoned and the case could include Bo's family.

A public affairs representative at the Chengdu consulate Wednesday morning declined a McClatchy journalist's request to discuss the details of Wang's visit.

The government said Tuesday night that not only was Heywood in fact killed, but also that Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, and a household employee were "highly suspected" of being involved.

While there hasn't been a widespread public outcry about Bo's downfall, some users of the nation's Twitter-like micro-blogs alternately voiced irritation and despair Wednesday over the lack of an explanation of what precisely he and his wife had done. Online searches for Bo by name were blocked, though users found a variety of word-game approaches to circumvent those restrictions.

One person in the coastal province of Zhejiang lamented in a posting that, "people haven't figured out what really happened, but it's already been strongly supported." Another, in Guangdong province, said with seeming sarcasm that while little is known about the inner workings of the Bo saga, maintaining stability is a "top priority."

While serving as the party secretary in the southwestern city of Chongqing, Bo generated both fame and scorn for his brash, populist leadership style. He encouraged public celebrations of Mao Zedong-era culture, and he launched a massive crackdown on people and groups identified as involved with organized crime or public corruption. That combination fueled concerns in some quarters, apparently including senior leadership in Beijing, that Bo was getting out of control.

The Global Times, a tabloid seen as having nationalist leanings, ran an opinion piece Wednesday asserting that, "The authority of the CPC" — the Communist Party — "Central Committee is ensured by the smooth development of the country and resolute investigation of rule-breaking cases. This time, authority has shone through again."

(Researcher Joyce Zhang contributed to this report.)
Reply Wed 18 Apr, 2012 04:34 pm
China's powerful are full of corruption. BBB

Chinese Journalist: Bo Xilai Had History Of Bribes
by Louisa Lim - NPR Morning Edition
April 18, 2012

China is gripped by a tale of murder, betrayal, flight and intrigue that threatens the stability of the entire nation. At its heart is the death of a 41-year-old British businessman in a hotel room in the city of Chongqing last fall. The scandal has brought down a high-flying Chinese politician, Chongqing's party secretary Bo Xilai, and his wife, with China's state-run media hinting at their corruption and abuse of power.

The death of an Englishman overseas has rarely had such fallout. In the British Parliament on Tuesday, Foreign Secretary William Hague referred to Neil Heywood's death, saying, "We are pursuing this extremely carefully, but vigorously."

To make sure he got promotions, Bo Xilai used all his powers as Dalian mayor to bribe other princelings.

- Chinese journalist Jiang Weiping

The U.S. also has been drawn in. The scandal first broke when Bo's former police chief, Wang Lijun, sought asylum at an American consulate in Chengdu, about 100 miles away from Chongqing, in early February. Hague confirmed Tuesday that Wang was bearing details about Heywood's suspicious death in November. Wang was refused asylum, and is now in Chinese custody.

Then last week, Beijing made a stunning official announcement on state-run television. Heywood, it said, had been murdered, and the prime suspect was the woman dubbed China's Jackie Kennedy: Gu Kailai, Bo's wife. She had been close with Heywood, but "they had conflict over economic interests, which had been intensified," according to the official statement.

Gu is being held by the judicial authorities under suspicion of murder.

So who was Neil Heywood? He had moved to China more than a decade ago, initially living in the northern city of Dalian at a time when Bo was mayor. Heywood had done some work for Hakluyt, the British intelligence company. He also forged ties with the Bo family, helping organize the education of Bo's son, Bo Guagua, who studied at the exclusive British boarding schools Papplewick and Harrow.

Kerry Brown, a China expert at the London think tank Chatham House, says he met Heywood several times over a decade.
British businessman Neil Heywood, seen in April 2011, was found dead in a hotel room in the Chinese city of Chongqing in November. An official announcement last week said Gu Kailai, the wife of Bo Xilai, is suspected of murder.
Enlarge AP

British businessman Neil Heywood, seen in April 2011, was found dead in a hotel room in the Chinese city of Chongqing in November. An official announcement last week said Gu Kailai, the wife of Bo Xilai, is suspected of murder.

"I think he did refer to Bo Xilai, but not I think in detail," says Brown, who sees Heywood as a kind of consultant who was effectively selling access to the Bo family. "He was working on very specific networks. He kept his business to himself, and I suppose it's become clear as this story has grown and grown how few people did know much about what he was doing."

Heywood was murdered for threatening to expose plans to transfer money overseas, according to a leak from the official Chinese investigation reported by Reuters. Lurid rumors of cyanide and poisoned drinks have been flying around China's Internet. But none of it — even the most sensational allegations — comes as a surprise to Chinese journalist Jiang Weiping. He worked for the state-run media in Hong Kong, but spent five years in prison and another three effectively under house arrest after using a pseudonym to report on the Bo family's corruption. He now lives in Canada.

In a telephone interview with NPR, Jiang described how Bo and his wife operated back in the late 1980s. Bo was running Dalian's propaganda office, which oversaw cultural affairs. His wife, who is also a lawyer, started the Folk Customs Culture Research Institute.

"The heads of the Authors Association and the Artists Association, etc., were chosen by his wife," Jiang says. "You had to give her gifts before you would be promoted. She got millions from entrepreneurs 'sponsoring' her institute. But she was actually just raking in money. She used this to throw parties, give favors and line her own pockets."

As her husband rose through the ranks, Gu set up a legal firm, which Jiang believes fulfilled the same function. Jiang alleges the pair used family members to hide their wealth. Gu's sisters have companies worth $126 million, according to Bloomberg news agency. And Bo's brother is reportedly vice chairman of a state-run company, using a pseudonym, with stock options worth $25 million.

Jiang says Bo used real estate to buy support from the children of high officials, known as princelings. "To make sure he got promotions, Bo Xilai used all his powers as Dalian mayor to bribe other princelings," Jiang says. "He gave them land deals, financial projects and overseas trade opportunities to build connections, so they would help him get promoted and get rich."

Indeed, there is even a reference to how Bo's supporters were "coordinating his real estate interests" in a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable dating from 2009. The cable describes how people close to Bo "control several major real estate developments in Dalian."

With his leftist vision and high-powered network, Bo became the rock star of Chinese politics, a strong contender for the highest leadership body. And China's press is emphasizing that his spectacular downfall has not touched off any political turmoil. "It does not indicate a political struggle within the party," reads an editorial published Wednesday in the China Daily.

But few Chinese believe that, especially in light of news reports that party members and the military have had to swear loyalty oaths to China's current leadership. "There can only be one explanation for the military's oath of loyalty," says Zhang Ming, a political scientist at Renmin University of China. "Bo Xilai tried to mobilize the army, something like a rebellion. He went too far."

The government has firmly denied any coup attempt, arresting six people for spreading such rumors. Bo is currently under investigation for "serious disciplinary offenses," and there has been speculation that he could be facing the death penalty. Yet any attempt to unravel his web of corruption is likely to implicate many others in the Communist hierarchy.

Jiang predicts more details of Bo's fast-living lifestyle will emerge, including his philandering. "I think it's an extremely conservative guess to say he had 100 mistresses. He was very powerful. He had girlfriends himself, and he also used women as a commodity to give to other officials."

The real problem is that Bo is a product of China's political system. The son of a Communist hero, he used his revolutionary bloodline to accrue untold wealth and privileges. The case opens a window on a princeling oligarchy as far away from true Communism as can be imagined. The very legitimacy of China's Communist Party could be at stake.

Optimists hope the scandal will lead to political reform. The alternative, they say, is unthinkable.
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Reply Tue 24 Apr, 2012 03:18 am
it's kind of like a novel. I will read it carefully when I am free.

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