The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chief of the Chinese municipality of Chongqing acknowledged yesterday that a scandal that toppled his predecessor had done serious harm to the party’s image, just months before a key congress and change of leadership.
Zhang Dejiang (張德江), who replaced Bo Xilai (薄熙來) in March following a scandal that also entangled his wife and a former police chief, said too much attention had been given to the uproar, the Web site of the People’s Daily said.
The telegenic Bo had been a contender for a top leadership post, but his prospects suffered a blow after former Chongqing vice mayor Wang Lijun (王立軍), previously his longtime police chief, went to ground in the US consulate in Chengdu until he was coaxed out and placed under investigation.
Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai (谷開來), has been accused of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood. Neither she nor Bo has appeared in public since March and they have not had a chance to publicly answer the allegations about Heywood, a long-time family friend.
Zhang, in a meeting with party officials, praised Chongqing’s development, but said it was being overshadowed by the clouds swirling around Bo.
“Chongqing’s development and work of the city’s party committee have some problems and deficiencies,” the People’s Daily’s Web site quoted Zhang as saying. “Especially the Wang Lijun incident, death of Neil Heywood and serious discipline problems of comrade Bo Xilai, which have gravely damaged the party and nation’s image, and seriously affected Chongqing’s reforms and development.”
“Everyone believes that ... we must strictly separate Chongqing’s achievements over the last five years and hard work of the majority of officials and people from the Wang Lijun incident, death of Neil Heywood and serious discipline problems of comrade Bo Xilai,” he added.
Chinese state media has largely stayed away from discussing these cases in the past few weeks, as the government tries to put on a unified and harmonious face ahead of a crucial party congress later in the year, which will usher in new top leaders.
In April, Bo was suspended from the elite CCP Central Committee and its politburo, effectively ending his career. Until the scandal, Bo had widely been seen as pressing for a top leadership post.