Bo Xilai: downfall of one of China's most powerful men
Chongqing party boss ousted amid rumours of attempted defection, suicide and torture
THE CHIEF of the world’s biggest municipality, Chongqing, has been expelled by the Chinese government amid rumours of mafia-style torture and other scandals.
Bo Xilai is the son of the late communist leader Bo Yibo, and therefore known as a 'princeling' in China. Chongqing, where he was party boss, is an area with a population larger than Australia and New Zealand’s combined.
The 62-year-old had been a figurehead of China’s “red” movement, reviving songs and slogans from the Mao era, and looked likely to become one of the country’s top rulers in November.
He became a nationwide hero when he and his police chief Wang Lijun spearheaded an anti-corruption drive against the mafia of Chongqing and last year boasted of turning his exploits into a movie modelled on The Godfather.
Then, last month, Wang fled to a US consulate, reportedly asking to defect to America in exchange for information about Bo. The consulate was swiftly surrounded by Chinese police cars and the next day Wang was “spirited away” to Beijing where he is still under investigation.
A former Chongqing billionaire, Li Jun, has since claimed he was tortured on the orders of Wang and described the famous anti-corruption campaign as using “mafia methods in the name of cracking down on the mafia”.
Another businessman Zhang Mingyu disappeared last Wednesday after claiming that a Chongqing official with alleged mob ties had committed suicide. After mysteriously blogging that “the jigsaw puzzle of Wang Lijun should be revealed” he was visited by police and, according to his lawyer, has not been seen since.
It looked as if Bo had emerged from the cloud of rumours unscathed. But yesterday, in an unusually rare outburst, the outgoing premier, Wen Jiabao, unleashed a barely veiled attack on the Chongqinq leader during a press conference.
Jiabao said officials must “learn lessons” from the Wang incident and attacked Bo’s “red” movement campaign. Within 24 hours, China’s state newspaper announced that Bo would be standing down.