Thu, Aug 16, 2012 - Page 9 News List

Bo Xilai’s crackdown on crime left China a justice timebomb

By Chris Buckley  /  Reuters, CHONGQING, China

Even now, many Chongqing residents still praise him.

“Bo Xilai brought a sense of security here,” advertising sales manager Yu Kun said. “Only two kinds of people hate Bo Xilai — the businessmen-criminals he took down and the corrupt officials he took down.”

Bo has not been seen publicly since his downfall in March. A few days before his dismissal, he defended his policies at a news conference during the national parliament session.

“These people who have formed criminal blocs have wide social ties and the ability to shape opinion,” he said. “There are also, for example, people who have poured filth on Chongqing and poured filth on myself and my family.”

Dismissing suggestions of widespread abuse in Chongqing, Bo said: “Although it’s difficult to achieve 100 percent correct, that’s the goal we’ve certainly striven for.”

Zou said his father-in-law, Li, was president of the Chongqing Broadcasting Group and initially had Bo’s confidence as the ambitious politician sought to bathe the city and himself in effusive propaganda.

However, policy rifts between them ended in Li facing bribery charges, harsh interrogation over more than 20 days deprived of sleep and life in jail, family, colleagues and his lawyer said.

“In Chongqing, there was no presumption of innocence; there was a presumption of guilt,” Zou said.

“Bo had a habit of taking on the most powerful. He didn’t kill a chicken to scare the monkeys,” he added, citing a Chinese proverb meaning to make an example of someone weaker to frighten the more powerful. “He killed monkeys to scare the chickens.”

CHAIN REACTION

Although the Chinese government has appeared eager to bury Bo’s career, it has shown little appetite to publicize these controversial cases. Few families or lawyers of those convicted expect swift or decisive replies to their demands.

Bo’s use of the law to silence foes and amass power might have been especially intense, but it also built on the CCP’s long-standing use of courts, prosecutors and police to enforce its will. Openly vindicating his victims could embolden victims elsewhere in China, several lawyers said.

“My guess is that there won’t be wholesale overturning of verdicts, because how could you assume that such injustices are restricted only to Chongqing?” said Fang Hong (方洪), a former Chongqing forestry official sent to a labor re-education camp for criticizing Bo and Wang on the Internet.

“That would be a shock to China’s entire system, so the leadership doesn’t want Chongqing to start a chain reaction,” said Fang, who was released in late June after the case against him was overturned.

Li’s family, however, said it will not be satisfied with possibly slow and only partial redress for him.

The Chongqing government cast Li as a especially villainous official, using media reports to trumpet his arrest and conviction.

Li was “the biggest case of official corruption in Chongqing since the founding of the People’s Republic of China” in 1949, local newspapers said after his sentencing. Li, 60, was convicted of taking bribes worth a total of 49 million yuan (US$7.7 million) and given a commuted death sentence, meaning he faces life in jail.

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