Three months after replacing Bo Xilai as Chongqing party chief following his dismissal over allegations of corruption and a cover-up of his wife’s role in the death of British businessman Neil Heywood, Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang singled out Bo in his report to Chongqing’s municipal party congress on Monday. Marking Chongqing’s 15th anniversary as a municipality, Zhang attempted to distance its past and future from the damage caused by the Bo scandal. From Xinhua News:
“The past 15 years was a period when Chongqing’s overall strength achieved the fastest growth, its urban and rural areas experienced the biggest changes, and its people received the most benefits in its history,” Zhang said.
“Meanwhile we must note that the Wang Lijun incident, the death of Neil Heywood and the serious disciplinary violations of comrade Bo Xilai have greatly tarnished the image of the Party and the nation and have had a grave impact on Chongqing’s reform and development,” he said.
“We must strictly separate Chongqing’s achievements over the past five years and the painstaking efforts of local officials and residents from the three cases. On the other hand, we must sincerely draw lessons from those cases and earnestly improve our work,” Zhang told the delegates.
Zhang’s remarks come as the CCP’s central leadership determines how to finish off Chongqing’s disgraced former leader, who is believed to be under house arrest in Beijing, but The Associated Press notes that he gave no update on the investigation. The Telegraph’s Malcolm Moore reports that while an investigation may be concluded, senior CCP officials may still be at odds over how to rule on the cases of Bo and his wife:
One businessman in Chongqing, a former mid-ranking city official, said he had heard that Mr Zhang was stilled referring to Mr Bo as “Comrade Bo” in recent meetings and that Mr Bo had done much work to develop Chongqing.
“This means that Bo’s case is not yet closed and there is still a fierce struggle in the central government,” he said. “Zhang is being very prudent and extremely cautious about the words he uses. Bo’s power is not yet exhausted.”
“I would say we are still in a vacuum. They have not yet pinned him down entirely, or decided on the nature of the case. Bo has powerful allies and his Leftist route is the one the Party has been walking down for ever and is difficult to divert from.”
A second former Chongqing official also said Mr Bo could face more lenient treatment and that the central government appeared keen to extend the limbo around him for as long as possible and to dissipate the momentum around his case.
“He still has support in Beijing and they want to protect him. They are trying to fade the case out. Bo’s political career is dead, but they will try to protect him otherwise. One way of them doing that is the rumours that have spread that his wife is schizophrenic, or mentally ill,” he said.