With the annual National People’s Congress meetings underway in Beijing, the political intrigue surrounding recent events in Chongqing is a hot topic. A month after former Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun was detained (or, put in “vacation-style therapy“) after spending a day at the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu, he still has not been seen in public, and the political future of his former boss, Bo Xilai, is the object of much speculation. Yet it has been reported that NPC delegates were informed that Wang is now considered a “traitor” by Beijing. Radio Australia interviewed Professor Barry Sautman of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology about the case:
SNOWDOWN: […] As the police Chief Wang Lijun was tough, high profile and ambitious, and as it later emerged not shy of using possibly questionable arrest and detention methods. But it wasn’t until he went to the US Consulate reportedly to seek political asylum that he fell so heavily from favour. Amidst the intrigue the US has said only he was there for a scheduled meeting. Now it emerges President Hu Jintao has denouced Wang as a traitor to the country and the Party during a briefing to Congress delegates. Barry Sautman says its unusual to hear about Hu Jintao’s criticism of Wang.
SAUTMAN: But I wouldn’t say it would be unusual for Hu Jintao to denounce somebody like Wang Lijun because Bo Xilai who’s the Party Secretary in Chongching and was Wang Lijun’s boss is not somebody who’s favoured by Hu Jintao. That is Hu Jintao has a political system of followers and Bo Xilai is definitely not among them.
Meanwhile, the plot thickens as a well-connected Chongqing businessman was reportedly arrested, by Chongqing police, in Beijing after writing on his blog that he had inside information about the dealings between the Chongqing government and the mafia. From the Sydney Morning Herald:
Yesterday morning, the Chongqing property developer Zhang Mingyu hinted on his microblog he had new information to help outsiders understand ”the jigsaw puzzle around Wang Lijun”.
Earlier he blogged that a Chongqing official committed suicide on Saturday in his luxury compound. The official was a close associate of Weng Zhenjie, a local businessman and official who Mr Zhang and other entrepreneurs have publicly labelled the true godfather of the city mafia, although he was not one of 4500 detained in the anti-mafia campaign.
Mr Weng was a frequent social partner of many senior Chongqing officials including the mayor, Mr Huang.
But yesterday afternoon Chongqing police broke through the front door of Mr Zhang’s Beijing apartment before he could detail further allegations, said Mr Zhang’s lawyer, Pu Zhiqiang.
The South China Morning Post reported on the apparent suicide of Shui Zhengkuan, former deputy chairman of the Chongqing People’s Congress Standing Committee. According to the SCMP article, businessman Zhang Mingyu also served as a Chongqing People’s Congress deputy:
A Chongqing-based source close to the municipal government, who declined to be identified, also told the South China Morning Post that Shui Zhengkuan had killed himself, though the reasons remained unknown.
This was the latest incident to hit the southwestern municipality, which has been embroiled in political uncertainty since its deputy mayor and former police chief was put under investigation early last month amid defection concerns after spending one day in the US consulate in Chengdu .
[…] The anonymous source said Shui had been close friends with Weng Zhengjie , owner of one of the municipality’s largest security firms. Weng once made a massive donation to a foundation set up by Wang, the source added. Local newspapers reported that lawmaker Zhang accused Weng in January last year of embezzling tens of millions of yuan in public funds and of being involved in mafia-like activities, but no official action was taken against Weng.
Read more about Bo Xilai, Wang Lijun, and the crackdown they waged on the mafia in Chongqing. As an indication of the attention focused on Bo Xilai, see this photograph of Bo and Deng Xiaoping’s son, which has generated a tremendous amount of speculation and comment from netizens.
UPDATE (March 8, 2:15 PST): The New York Times provides a more in-depth look at Bo Xilai’s current situation and notes that he did not appear in today’s plenary session:
Mr. Bo’s plight has dominated the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress, China’s handpicked legislature, where his populist attitude and flamboyant personality made him something of a media star a year ago.
On Thursday, he failed to appear at the congress’s plenary session, a highly unusual absence. A spokesman said, however, that Mr. Bo would answer questions at a news conference on Friday.
Mr. Zhang’s charge and curious disappearance add to a growing impression that Mr. Bo’s aggressively cultured image of Chongqing as a model for China’s future — moral and crime-free, rapidly urbanizing, growing like a weed — has been tarnished.
Mr. Bo’s critics regard Chongqing under Mr. Bo as a place where power brokers were given free rein and rivals were framed, extorted and even tortured.