A colleague of Li, a manager, said he was threatened with torture by state investigators, who told him that he could either provide incriminating testimony against Li or risk seeing his family detained.
Li’s real offense was to anger Bo by resisting his ambitions to turn Chongqing’s TV broadcaster into a “red” channel devoted to doctrinaire programs, said the manager, as well Li’s son-in-law, Zou.
“Everyone knew that Bo wanted to take him down,” said the manager, who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing worries that city officials could be angered by his speaking out. “There were corrupt officials, but Bo also used the law to get rid of dissenters.”
Chongqing officials have declined requests to answer questions about Li’s case and others, but one advocate of Bo’s policies said a push to overturn many verdicts from his campaign against criminal gangs and corruption would prove unpopular.
“I insist that the crackdown on organized crime was necessary to rid Chongqing of a malignant force,” said Sima Nan, a Beijing-based TV host and online commentator who has continued to defend Bo’s policies after his downfall. “Bo Xilai took on the collusion between officials and crime gangs, and of course they’re going to come out now and claim injustice. If there were problems, then produce the evidence.”
Several lawyers and family members of prisoners say that under Bo and Wang, Chongqing police and prosecutors made up their minds beforehand and then used torture and threats of torture to get the testimony they needed for a conviction.
Other methods they said were used included strapping suspects in a “tiger chair” and keeping them awake for days on end; suspending prisoners with shackles attached to the ceiling while their feet barely touched the floor; forcing them to drink large amounts of water laced with chili; and administering beatings and electrical shocks.
“At the time, we didn’t dare raise any criticism of these cases prosecuted under Chongqing’s high-pressure system,” said Rao Jianpu, whose brother Rao Wenwei was a law-and-order official in rural Chongqing jailed after posting essays online critical of Bo and the Chinese government.
“That was then, but now it seems that with Secretary Bo gone, many people are willing to speak out,” said Rao, who is helping in a campaign to void his brother’s 12-year jail term on charges of “inciting subversion” and taking bribes. “There are many cases waiting to be dealt with. They say the number of people who want to appeal is so, so many.”
Claims of gross injustice by China’s party-run police and courts are by no means unique to Chongqing, but Bo’s campaigns have left a daunting backlog of grievances, said Tong Zhiwei (童之偉), a law professor at the East China University of Political Science and Law in Shanghai who has studied Bo’s policies.
“The number of victims and the amount of money confiscated are still difficult to estimate,” Tong said. “While certainly not everyone jailed was innocent of any crime, the proportion of wrongful cases was indeed very high.”