Political Scandal Triggered by British Man’s Death
Despite a crackdown on Chinese microblogging services in an effort to stem the tide of rumors about the dismissal of former Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai, speculation over the case is continuing apace. According to a Reuters report, the series of dramatic events, including an apparent attempted defection by Bo’s former police chief Wang Lijun, was set into motion after Wang approached Bo about his wife’s reported role in the death of Briton Neil Heywood:
Wang told Bo in late January that he believed Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, was involved in the death of British businessman Neil Heywood in the southwest Chinese city in mid-November, the source said.
The account helps explain the apparent rupture between the city chief and Wang, who led Bo’s widely applauded crackdown on crime in China’s most populous metropolis.
In early February, Wang briefly sought refuge in the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, several hours’ drive from Chongqing, which suddenly made the growing scandal public.
Bo, 62, and his wife have disappeared from public view since his abrupt removal on March 15 as party chief of Chongqing, and they cannot respond publicly to the rumors and reports. Nor can Wang, who is under investigation.
Meanwhile, with Bo removed from power, more details are coming out about the methods used in his campaign against organized crime in Chongqing. Melissa Chan reports from Chongqing both on Bo’s supporters as well as those imprisoned and allegedly tortured under his watch:
The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that a journalist may currently be in prison for writing critically about Bo on his personal blog.
An online appeal for Gao Yingpu, described as a professional journalist who has worked for publications such as the Guangdong-based Asia Pacific Economic Times newspaper, was published online in China on March 23, according to the U.S. government-funded Voice of America. The appeal said Gao was sentenced in a secret trial in 2010 to a three-year prison term for criticizing disgraced Chongqing city Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai. On Wednesday, the Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders reported that the journalist’s wife had confirmed his July 2010 arrest as well as his sentence on charges of endangering state security.
If true, this would not be the first journalist arrested for writing critical reports about Bo; journalist Jiang Weiping spent five years in prison after investigating corruption by Bo and other officials.
For more background on Bo’s case, read a Los Angeles Times article, “Intrigue enters Chinese politics.”