Leadership Limits Purge in Bo Scandal

The downfall of Bo Xilai has threatened a political purge of his allies that could expose corruption and wrongdoing among the highest echelons of power in China ahead of the once-a-decade transition of leadership at the 18th Party Congress. But now that Bo has been dismissed from his Party positions and is being investigated for corruption and other discipline violations, the Party appears to be closing ranks to limit the damage from the scandal, according to a report from Reuters:

Hu urged the party to close ranks at a meeting of about 200 officials early this month at a Beijing hotel, declaring the downfall of Bo – China’s biggest political scandal in two decades – to be an “isolated case”, the three sources said.

The sources’ comments represent the first confirmation of speculation that Hu recently intervened to prevent a wider rift in the party and to resist pressure from some elements for a wider purge of the populist Bo’s policies and supporters.

Bo, former party chief of Chongqing city, was suspended from the party’s top ranks in April after his wife became a suspect in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood. Before the scandal broke, Bo had been seen as a candidate to join China’s new top leadership team to be unveiled this year.

“It’s been settled that this will be dealt with as a criminal case, not a political case,” said one of the sources, a retired official. “The central leadership wants to focus on ensuring a stable environment for the 18th Party Congress, so the guiding policy is to end all the rumors and contention.”

Many of those rumors centered around the powerful Standing Committee member Zhou Yongkang, an ally of Bo’s, who is in charge of the nation’s security and law enforcement. Recent reports have suggested that Zhou was also going to be purged from the Party for his support of Bo, and a group of retired Party officials penned an open letter calling for Zhou’s immediate resignation in the wake of the Bo scandal. However, in recent days, Party media have reported on his official appearances, thereby hinting that he has not completely lost favor. From Bloomberg:

Zhou Yongkang, China’s top internal security official, met with “model” police officers from around the nation in Beijing today together with President Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao and Vice President Xi Jinping, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
Zhou, speaking at the meeting, said that public security agencies nationwide and most police officers understand the complexity of current domestic and international situations, as well as the “special importance” of maintaining social stability this year, according to Xinhua.

And from the BBC:

…Late last week the Communist Party’s mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, reported on its front page that Mr Zhou had made a trip to visit the western region of Xinjiang.

The stories seemed to signal that he might still be wielding power and had not been sidelined himself.

Then it was announced Mr Zhou had been picked, unanimously, to be a delegate representing the western region of Xinjiang at the Communist Party Congress due to happen this autumn in Beijing. The Congress is where the new generation of leaders will be confirmed in post.

[…] The fact that Mr Zhou will definitely be at the Congress seems to be a sign that he is now in the clear, and China’s leaders may have papered over their differences, if indeed they had any.

Meanwhile, the retired officials who wrote the open letter calling for his resignation have been called in for questioning, AFP reports.

Read more about Bo Xilai, Zhou Yongkang, and the upcoming 18th Party Congress via CDT.

May 25, 2012 10:49 PM
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