Bo Allegations Raise Dangerous Questions For CCP

After the Friday announcement that former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai had been expelled from the Communist Party and will face criminal prosecution, The New York Times reports that his youngest son, princeling Bo Guagua, issued a statement over the weekend defending his father:

In his brief statement, posted Saturday evening on Tumblr, the younger Bo wrote: “Personally, it is hard for me to believe the allegations that were announced against my father, because they contradict everything I have come to know about him throughout my life. Although the policies my father enacted are open to debate, the father I know is upright in his beliefs and devoted to duty.”

The statement continued: “He has always taught me to be my own person and to have concern for causes greater than ourselves. I have tried to follow his advice. At this point, I expect the legal process to follow its normal course, and I will await the result.”

Mr. Bo confirmed in an e-mail that the statement was authentic, but declined to comment further.

News of Bo’s expulsion emerged several days after former Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun received a 15-year prison sentence, and alongside an announcement that the much-anticipated 18th Party Congress, where the revamped Politburo Standing Committee lineup will be announced as China commences a once-in-a-decade leadership transition, will open on November 8th. The case against Bo could still progress before the congress, writes Reuters’ Christopher Buckley, and he “will almost certainly be jailed”.

Two sources in Chongqing told The Telegraph’s Malcolm Moore that different powers in the party ” were fighting each other” over how to handle Bo’s case, but ultimately “decided to get rid of him thoroughly” to blunt the influence of those that still support him. The charges ensure that Bo will not go quietly, writes The Economist’s Gady Epstein, and Oxford University’s Rana Mitter tells NPR’s Louisa Lim that the Party must navigate a number of dangerous questions raised by his offenses:

“How is it possible for someone like that, first of all, to get so far in the party –- within sniffing distance of Politburo standing committee, the very top team in Chinese politics — and what does it say about his connections at a very high level in Chinese politics?” he says.

Mitter says the government will be hard pressed to convey their side of this story to a skeptical public.

“The only way I can see that the Chinese Communist Party can spin this in a way that will serve their interests is to basically make this a morality tale. This is one rogue character, a bad apple, and the party system works because it eventually it caught up with him, even though it was very late in the day,” Mitter added.

The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos adds that the scope of the allegations against Bo may turn his case into a Pandora’s box as the Party “hangs its dirty laundry out in public”:

How much of Bo’s political history will eventually be open to discussion? One of the biggest surprises in these charges is that the Party didn’t confine its attention to the dramatic events of this spring and declare victory. On the contrary, they harkened back to virtually his full political career, accusing of him impropriety as early as his posts in Manchuria, where he was first stationed in 1984. That’s a quarter century of opportunities, and for years, Bo was said to have been involved in corruption. But nobody ever thought he would be prosecuted for it, not any more than they think that the other members of the Politburo who are routinely subject to rumors about corruption will ever see a day in court.

And therein lies the powder keg at the center of the Bo Xilai case. In seeking to purge him with a finality that can restore short-term political balance, the Party may have raised a more dangerous spectre: the full-scale accounting of a life in government. The results could reveal a culture of self-dealing and personal enrichment that exceeds even the Chinese public’s considerable tolerance of official abuse. It may start a conversation that will be hard to end.

For The Guardian, Isabel Hilton writes that “there was no perfect solution to the Bo Xilai problem”, but the Party’s choice comes with a number of risks:

But such a scandalous trial of a politburo member – on charges of corruption, abuse of power, womanising, and bearing responsibility for the murder of the British businessman Neil Heywood, as detailed by the official news agency Xinhua on Friday – also has its risks. Few in China will believe that similar charges could not be levelled against hundreds of party officials, from the most senior leaders, whose families have grown immensely rich from their connections with high office, to the most junior local power holder, who mimics his superiors by extorting money from defenceless peasants.

Bo Xilai’s crime was not that he stole or abused his power: if those were really crimes in China, few would escape censure. His real crime was the manner in which he pursued his political ambition: he tried to be bigger than the party, campaigning publicly for a coveted seat in the standing committee of the politburo, China’s tiny supreme body. And the party, like the mafia, does not take kindly to any member, however powerful, who forgets that the party is bigger than any individual.

This will be the biggest political show trial since the Gang of Four – Mao Zedong’s wife, Jiang Qing, and her three close allies – in 1981 when they lost the power struggle that followed Mao’s death in 1976. Jiang Qing received a suspended death sentence and died in prison.

With the purge on, Tea Leaf Nation’s Liz Carter and David Wertime took stock of the comments emerging on microblogging site Sina Weibo, where a search on Saturday for posts mentioning “Bo Xilai” garnered nearly 7 million results (now that searches for his name are no longer blocked). One reporter dissected Xinhua’s press release and concluded via weibo that Bo’s crimes “sound unimaginable”, calling the release “the blueprint for future charges” and speculating that Bo will probably receive life in prison or a suspended death sentence. A number of netizens also drew parallels between Bo’s case and the Cultural Revolution:

One post by liberal columnist Zhao Chu @赵楚 on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter drew recent attention. In his post, Zhao urged netizens to look at the complete picture of Bo’s rise to power, attributing three factors to his earlier success: “Bo Xilai has totally failed, but people should reflect. Bo didn’t just fall out of the sky. He climbed up the ladder step by step, his wife, family members, and lackeys did so many bad things for more than 10 years, this is not happenstance. A political environment that has never fully reckoned with the Cultural Revolution or Chinese history, a law that lacks a strong supervisory voice [and faces] strong pressure from dictatorial methods; [and a central government that has lost its authority and gives local government too much power]; this overall situation has provided the fertile soil giving rise to Bo.” [1]

A number of users responded in agreement, calling for a “reckoning” or “clearing” of the “poisonous legacy” of the Cultural Revolution. @无码的视界 alluded to the sensational trial of the Gang of Four which signaled the end to China’s Cultural Revolution, remarking, “I hope this is the last of court politics. If the system is not changed, the Cultural Revolution could return at any time.”

Other netizens observed rhetorical similarities between the charges against Bo and those commonly leveled during the Cultural Revolution. @小费同学Fernando pointed out that “the wording is the same as during the Cultural Revolution…the techniques are exactly the same.”

Of all the charges leveled against Bo on Friday, perhaps none has drawn more focus than the allegation that he “maintained improper sexual relations with a number of women” while in power. The South China Morning Post reports that observers weren’t surprised, as “sex and power often go hand-in-hand in cases of mainland corruption,” and Foreign Policy’s Isaac Stone Fish runs down a list of other fallen officials whose private lives were exposed alongside their official transgressions. The dossier against Bo reportedly contains a list of his alleged mistresses, including CCTV anchors and other film and television stars, but the lawyer for Zhang Ziyi told The Telegraph that no evidence linked her to the fallen party boss.