China’s central leadership has moved to bolster control over the southwestern city-province of Chong-qing after ousting its contentious yet popular chief, Bo Xilai (薄熙來), with state-run media yesterday urging officials and residents there to toe the line.
The demands for unity with the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s central leadership appeared in Chongqing newspapers that did not even mention Bo, who was removed this week after a scandal when his vice mayor, Wang Lijun (王立軍), took refuge in a US consulate last month until he was coaxed out and put under investigation.
Until that episode, Bo was widely seen as an ambition-fuelled contender for a spot in the next central leadership to be settled late this year. However, now the message to Chongqing officials and residents amounts to: Forget about Bo, even if he was China’s most high-profile province-level leader.
The Chongqing Daily reported that city officials on Friday effectively pledged loyalty to Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and Chongqing’s new boss, Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang (張德江).
“All unanimously declared that they will sincerely embrace the central leadership’s decision on adjusting the municipality party committee’s leader and handling the Wang Lijun case,” the paper reported of a meeting of Chongqing officials.
“Do not disappoint the sincere expectations of the central leadership,” the officials were told, according to the report.
The failure to even mention Bo Xilai by name in state media was another sign of the fall from grace for a man who, unusually among China’s poker-faced leaders, reveled in publicity.
After arriving in Chongqing in 2007, Bo, 62 and a former commerce minister, turned it into a bastion of Communist revolutionary-inspired “red” culture and egalitarian growth, winning national attention with a crackdown on organized crime.
His self-promotion and revival of Mao Zedong (毛澤東)-inspired propaganda irked moderate officials.
However, his populist ways and crime clean-up were welcomed by many residents and others who hoped Bo could try his policies nationwide.
Chongqing newspapers said residents promptly embraced Bo’s successor.
“The broad mass of Chongqing residents resolutely support the central leadership’s decision and sincerely welcome Comrade Zhang Dejiang coming to work here,” the Chongqing Daily said.
“They are full of hope in Chongqing’s future development,” it added.
Many residents of the riverside city, however, voiced dismay at the dumping of Bo.
“It’s hard for us to understand this,” said Xia Hao, a businessman in his thirties. “The problem is that Chongqing had party secretaries before who came and left, like Wang Yang (汪洋) and He Guoqiang (賀國強), but nothing about the city changed much then.”
“But after Bo Xilai came here, we could see and feel all the changes, so people don’t understand what he did that was so wrong,” he said.