The New York Times’ Edward Wong reports that Chongqing officials are investigating whether local police officers used torture during former party chief Bo Xilai’s anticrime campaign:
The review of police actions was revealed in interviews with a lawyer in Beijing and a person in Chongqing with ties to police officials. It appears to be part of a deeper critical look at Mr. Bo’s reign in Chongqing and could be used to further tarnish his reputation.
The investigation, which has not been previously disclosed, formally began April 25, when Liu Guanglei, a top Chongqing party official in charge of the politics and law committee, said at a gathering of mid- and senior-level police officials that any officer who had tortured suspects during Mr. Bo’s campaign should admit to doing so. Mr. Liu told the group that if an officer were found later to have committed torture but had not been forthcoming, then the officer would be severely punished, according to the person with police ties, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicate nature of the scandal surrounding Mr. Bo.
Mr. Bo’s campaign, called “strike black” or “smash the black,” was rolled out in June 2009 to great fanfare and engineered by Wang Lijun, a police officer from northeast China whom Mr. Bo had installed as the police chief here after he became party secretary in late 2007. Mr. Bo and Mr. Wang said the campaign was aimed at destroying crime gangs and their supporters in Chongqing, but critics and some people convicted during that time say the campaign was at least partly a cover to tear down Mr. Bo’s enemies and undermine private entrepreneurs.
Tales of torture and mistreatment during the “da hei” campaign began to emerge before Bo’s dismissal, including a first-hand account given by a former billionaire property developer named Li Jun and published by The Financial Times which describes Bo’s “Chongqing Model” as “nothing but a red terror” and paints a picture of brutality following Li’s December 2009 arrest. Now, with Bo under investigation and wife Gu Kailai a chief suspect in the late 2011 murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, The Guardian’s Tania Branigan writes that Chongqing’s former First Family will now experience the flipside of China’s extralegal regime:
Bo, who has not been seen since shortly before he was dismissed as party secretary of Chongqing in March, appears to have vanished into the party’s shadowy, extra-legal investigation system, where he could be held in solitary confinement for up to six months without access to a lawyer.
For the country’s 80m party members, this takes precedence over any investigation by judicial authorities: in China, the party trumps the state. “Money, power, guanxi [connections], political clout do not make you safe because something exists above of you,” said Sapio, one of the few to have researched the party’s discipline system, shuanggui.
“If you touch this kind of power then regardless of your status and money and prestige and pedigree – you are exactly as a political dissident or the last and least important of common criminals. In that sense everybody is truly equal: not before the law but before a power.”