In another surprise twist in the ongoing case of former Chongqing Party chief Bo Xilai, the New York Times reports that he was responsible for wire-tapping the phones of President Hu Jintao and that the discovery of the surveillance may have led to his downfall:
Until now, the downfall of Mr. Bo has been cast largely as a tale of a populist who pursued his own agenda too aggressively for some top leaders in Beijing and was brought down by accusations that his wife had arranged the murder of Neil Heywood, a British consultant, after a business dispute. But the hidden wiretapping, previously alluded to only in internal Communist Party accounts of the scandal, appears to have provided another compelling reason for party leaders to turn on Mr. Bo.
The story of how China’s president was monitored also shows the level of mistrust among leaders in the one-party state. To maintain control over society, leaders have embraced enhanced surveillance technology. But some have turned it on one another — repeating patterns of intrigue that go back to the beginnings of Communist rule.
“This society has bred mistrust and violence,” said Roderick MacFarquhar, a historian of Communist China’s elite-level machinations over the past half century. “Leaders know you have to watch your back because you never know who will put a knife in it.”
Nearly a dozen people with party ties, speaking anonymously for fear of retribution, confirmed the wiretapping, as well as a widespread program of bugging across Chongqing. But the party’s public version of Mr. Bo’s fall omits it.
The report outlines the extensive surveillance operation that Bo and his former police chief Wang Lijun implemented in Chongqing to monitor crime rings and high-level leaders visiting the city. The technology was implemented with the help of Fang Binxing, president of Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, who is known as the “father of the Great Firewall” for his work developing China’s Internet censorship mechanisms. Read more about Fang Binxing via CDT.
In another development in the Bo Xilai saga, it was reported today that his brother, Li Xueming, resigned as director and vice chairman of China Everbright International Ltd. after international media reported that he held the position under a false name. From Bloomberg:
Li Xueming, 64, who also goes by the name Bo Xiyong, sold 12 million shares in China Everbright (165) in 2010 and 2011, cashing out HK$43.2 million ($5.6 million), according to Hong Kong Exchange filings. That left him with 10 million options, according to the company’s latest annual report.
Singapore and Hong Kong corporate filings reviewed by Bloomberg News show shared addresses, shareholders and directors indicating Bo Xiyong and Li Xueming are the same.
“It is quite disgraceful that individuals are allowed to adopt different identities depending on which company or circumstance they are appearing in,” David Webb, a former director of the Hong Kong bourse, said in an April 24 interview. “Shareholders have a right to know exactly who is running their companies.”
For more on the players in this increasingly complicated story, see a New York Times graph outlining the relationships between Bo’s family and associates.
Read much more about Bo Xilai via CDT.