China’s fallen former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai (薄熙來) left a timebomb as a parting gift for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership that threw him out — the smoldering demands for redress from the many targets of his harsh version of justice in the city he ruled.
For now, China remains transfixed on the fate of Bo and his wife, Gu Kailai (谷開來). She went on trial on Thursday last week, charged with murdering Neil Heywood, a British businessman at the heart of the scandal that felled Bo, once an aspirant to top power. Her verdict will be announced later, as will Bo’s fate.
However, after the CCP finishes a once-in-a-decade power handover later this year, demands for redress stemming from Bo’s rule could flare and bring pressure on China’s new leaders even as they try to put the scandal behind them.
Heading into next year, they are likely to face an outcry, said lawyers and prisoners’ families who allege that Bo and his long-time police chief, Wang Lijun (王立軍), presided over rampant injustice in the name of fighting criminal gangs and corruption in Chongqing, the southwest municipality that was their fiefdom.
“The barrier to dealing with these unjust verdicts now is that there are so many of them,” said Zou Zhiyon (鄒志勇), a Chongqing businessman who said his father-in-law, Li Xiaofeng (李曉楓), is among the once rich or powerful prisoners planning to seek release and redress from convictions made under Bo.
“We’ll certainly appeal, but not yet, because we have to wait and take into account China’s special political environment,” Zou said.
“We’ll wait until after the 18th Party Congress. Many cases will come forward then,” he added.
The congress, likely to be held in October, will announce the new leadership that will run China for a decade.
Lawyers and family members of several other prisoners said they also planned to appeal against their convictions after the party’s power transition.
It is difficult to estimate how many may do so, but one prominent lawyer, Chen Youxi (陳有西) , has said more than 700 people were convicted as part of Bo’s anti-criminal gang campaign, including more than 70 who were executed.
In keeping with its usual reticence, the Chinese government has made little comment on the allegations of misrule under Bo. It removed him from the Chongqing post in March and announced in April that he was suspended from the party’s elite Central Committee and Politburo for “disciplinary violations.”
In March, Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) rebuked Bo for Wang’s flight to a US consulate, the start of the unraveling of Bo’s career. He only obliquely criticized Bo’s rule in Chongqing.
“Over the years, the successive governments of Chongqing and the people in Chongqing have made tremendous efforts to promote reform and development,” Wen said at the time. “And they have achieved remarkable progress in that regard. The present Chongqing municipal Party committee and the municipal government must reflect seriously and learn from the Wang Lijun incident.”
After arriving in Chongqing in 2007, Bo, a former commerce minister, turned it into a showcase of revolution-inspired “red” culture and his policies for egalitarian, state-led growth. He also won national attention with a crackdown on organized crime. His brash self-promotion irked some leaders in Beijing, but his populist ways and crime clean-up were welcomed by many of Chongqing’s 30 million residents, as well as others who hoped that Bo could take his policies nationwide.