After Wang, Bo Xilai Awaits his Fate

Wang Lijun’s sentencing to 15 years in prison once again raises questions over the fate of his former boss, Bo Xilai, whose whereabouts remain unknown. Keith B. Richburg at The Washington Post tries to unscramble Bo’s current plight:

Bo’s only known communication with his family since his ouster was an emotional letter sent in April to his mother-in-law, Fan Chengxiu, written with a traditional Chinese brush. Bo said he hoped to quietly read books while waiting for his case to be resolved, according to a family associate who saw the letter.

[…T]he separate trials of Gu, Wang and four other police officers charged in the coverup left unanswered the crucial question of what Bo knew about the murder and when he knew it. Bo in April was stripped of his positions in the Politburo and the Party Central Committee, but he has not been charged with any crime.

He is thought to have been moved several times among government residences in Hebei province, Inner Mongolia and the outer suburbs of Beijing. Those reports could not be independently confirmed.

Choi Chi-yuk at South China Morning Post gives a detailed account of how Wang and Bo’s closely linked careers:

Wang probably came to Bo’s attention some time in 2003, when he was the secretary in the public security department of the Communist Party in Jinzhou City, in Liaoning, of which Bo had been appointed governor in 2001. Bo was appointed party secretary of Chongqing, a megacity of 33 million people in 2007.

[…] After his apparent success against organised crime in Chongqing on Bo’s behalf, Wang was fêted as a gangbuster by the common people, and took centre stage in public life. This celebrity came despite accusations by lawyers that he extracted confessions through torture and sacrificed due process in the pursuit of the so-called triad groups.

[…] In May last year, Bo promoted Wang to vice-mayor with responsibility for overseeing security while retaining his role as chief of police. As a result, Wang became seen as a rising political star who some day might play a key role in the national Public Security Ministry, when his mentor Bo assumed the high office to which he had seemed destined. The apparent improvement in law and order under Wang’s iron-fisted crackdown had, in turn, boosted Bo’s chances of winning a place on the party’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, to be decided at the 18th national congress later this year.

Although Wang’s sentencing was relatively lenient, some observers feel that he has become Bo’s human shield. From Shi Jingtao and Choi Chi-yuk at South China Morning Post:

A source close to Wang’s family told the South China Morning Post they believed Wang had been made a scapegoat for Bo.

The source commented: “Wang has apparently become a political victim because the government wants to protect the guy above him and avoid further humiliation.”

[…] Wang’s lawyer Wang Yuncai – not related to her client – confirmed to the Post that Bo was explicitly named during Wang’s trial when the court heard how Bo slapped Wang. But the fact Bo’s name was not mentioned at all by state media throughout the trials of Wang and Gu was seen by many, including Hong Kong analyst Johnny Lau Yui-siu, as a sure sign Bo will be treated leniently to avoid any repercussions on the imminent leadership transition.

Others link Bo’s case to the behind-the-scenes political jockeying between the factions of Hu Jintao and former leader Jiang Zemin. From Mark Mackinnon at The Globe and Mail:

Mr. Bo – a “princeling” whose father was a hero of the 1949 Communist Revolution – was once seen as a near-certainty to join the Standing Committee, and his downfall has exposed deep rifts in a party that normally excels at presenting at least a façade of unity. Mr. Bo’s fellow princelings, and their chief patron, former president Jiang Zemin, are battling to limit damage from the scandal and to check the gains made by a rival faction of Communist Youth League alumni, a grouping headed by President Hu Jintao.

The Youth League faction is broadly considered more reform-minded, while the princelings are seen as more conservative about further opening the economy or any changes to China’s one-party political system.

“It would show that Jiang Zemin and the conservatives still have substantial clout, if they can spare Bo Xilai,” Prof. Lam said.

Yet amid the public debate over the leniency of Wang’s sentencing, his family sees the conviction itself as showing a lack of justice in China. From Edward Wong at The New York Times:

“I feel desperate,” his younger sister, Wang Fengying, said in a telephone interview. “It’s too unfair.”

Mr. Wang’s lawyer, Wang Yuncai, who is not related to him, said in a telephone interview that the 15-year sentence was about what she expected. She said that Mr. Wang’s wife, though, was stunned. “She was utterly shocked and unwilling to accept such a result,” she said.

See more about Wang Lijun and Bo Xilai via CDT, and a chronicle of censorship of the case at Fei Chang Dao.

September 27, 2012 2:57 AM
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Categories: Law, Politics