BO XILAI BROUGHT DOWN BY HIS RIGHT HAND MAN WANG LIJUN?
young Bo Bo Xilai’s downfall began in January of 2012 when he censured his top aide, police chief Wang Lijun, and then stripping him of his powerful post. Rejected by his influential patron and fearing for his life, Wang slipped out of Chongqing by car a week later and fled to the U.S. consulate in neighboring Chengdu to seek asylum. Wang told US diplomats of his version of the Heywood murder, including that Bo had tried to prevent his investigation. "It felt like something out of a spy thriller," U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke later said in an interview with Newsweek. [Source:Gillian Wong, Associated Press, August 20, 2013]
Wang was sacked after he told Bo about the allegations that Bo’s wife was involved in the Heywood murder. Gillian Wong of Associated Press wrote: “ It is unclear why Wang brought the murder allegations to his boss, though reports suggested that Wang hoped Bo would shield him from an unrelated graft investigation. His plan backfired, forcing him instead to flee to the U.S. consulate, prompting Chinese security vehicles to surround the building. Photos of the scene circulating on microblogs were the first public hints of trouble brewing.When Wang realized that asylum was not an option, he negotiated with Chinese officials for safe passage to Beijing. The murder allegations were not yet publicly known, but Wang's actions were considered a severe breach of party protocol.” [Ibid]
In February 2012, Wang Lijun—Bo Xilai’s aide and Chongqing’s vice mayor and security boss—fled to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, a four hour drive from Chongqing, in a rumored attempt to defect. Wang left the consulate after more than a day inside, led away by officials. Reuters reported that authorities sought to play down Wang’s dramatic and apparently fearful flight, describing it as an “isolated incident.” Chongqing officials loyal to Bo have suggested that the former police director is mentally unhinged. [Source: Chris Buckley, Reuters, March 9, 2012]
According to the New York Times:Wang spent a night in the consulate before leaving in the care of officials from the Ministry of State Security in Beijing. Airline ticket purchase records showed that a first-class seat for a Feb. 8 flight to Beijing had been bought for Mr. Wang, according to a Bloomberg report in February. A first-class ticket was also purchased for Qiu Jin, a vice minister of state security. Mr. Wang has not been seen since he was escorted from the Chengdu consulate.
The Wall Street Journal reported: Chinese police surrounded the consulate. After talks with Chongqing Mayor Huang Qifan in the consulate, Mr. Wang left the building and was detained by Chinese security agents. The Chongqing government said Mr. Wang was suffering from stress and undergoing "vacationstyle treatment." U.S. State Department later confirmed he spent the night in consulate and said he left of his own accord. [Source: Jeremy Page, Wall Street Journal, March 25, 2012]
Bo Xilai's Reaction to Wang Lijun Flight
According to Reuters Bo told reporters that he was taken by surprise by Wang’s actions. "I truly never expected that he would leave like this," Bo told reporters at China's annual parliament meeting in Beijing. "Wang Lijun is being investigated by the relevant central agencies," he said. "When the results are concluded, they will be released to everyone." At the time leaders had assembled in Beijing for the annual National People's Congress session, where the traditional show of unity was unsettled by speculation over whether Bo would be denied a spot in the central leadership to be unveiled at the 18th Party Congress later in 2012. [Source: Chris Buckley, Reuters, March 9, 2012]
The Wang Lijun case was widely discussed on China's Twitter-like microblogging sites, though state-controlled papers have remained mostly silent on the issue and Chinese reporters covering parliament say they have been told not to raise it. In his first questioning by media since Wang fled, Bo played down suggestions that the episode could also bring him down. "It seems that anywhere, no matter how well things are going, you need to exercise vigilance and prevent the unexpected from occurring," said Bo.He fended off questions about his own prospects, grimacing and rolling his eyes at repeated questions from Hong Kong and Western reporters about Wang. "That's totally a rumor, totally imaginary. There's no such thing as a resignation," he said when asked whether he had offered to quit. He also denied being questioned about the case.
Bo also gave a combative defense of policies that have made Chongqing a controversial bastion of traditional "red" socialist culture and a model egalitarian economic development denounced by pro-free market critics. He suggested that unspecified enemies were vilifying both Chongqing and his family. "If only a minority of people are wealthy, then we would be heading towards capitalism and we would have failed. If a new capitalist class emerges, then we'll really have taken the wrong route," said Bo, a former commerce minister, citing statistics indicating that China's inequality is dangerously high.
Wang was widely seen as Bo’s right-hand man. He ran the sweeping anticrime crackdown in 2009 which led to thousands of arrests and destroyed some of the city’s wealthiest business executives. According to the New York Times the campaign propelled Mr. Bo’s thinly veiled crusade to win a seat on the Standing Committee of the Politburo, the nine-member committee that effectively runs China.
Wang was a nationally decorated crime fighter who had worked under Bo in Dalian in the northeast province of Liaoning. In Chongqing he was the top police officer until he was mysteriously removed the week before he fled to the consulate. He stayed on as a deputy mayor and was reassigned to duties involving the local economy and education.
China’s Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection (CCDI) was investigating “economic crimes” and corruption-related offences allegedly committed by Wang and his colleagues when the latter served as a top police official in Tieling municipality from 1995 to 2003. In January, Gu Fengjie, Wang’s successor as Tieling police chief, was sentenced to 12 years in jail on graft-related charges. CCDI agents began questioning Wang himself early in 2012. [Source: Willy Lam, China Brief (Jamestown Foundation), March 2, 2012]
Matthew Robertson wrote in The Epoch Times: Wang has a story to tell about his participation in thousands of atrocities—and may have already told it to U.S. consular officials. Fearing that Bo Xilai meant to assassinate him, he fled to Chengdu. According to a Radio France International report, revealed to consular officials details about crimes committed by him and Bo. [Source: Matthew Robertson, The Epoch Times, February 15, 2012]
Jun Li, a victim of the Chongqing anti-crime campaign and once one of the richest men in Chongqing, told the Washington Post that Wang was so worried about his own fate...that he fled Chongqing and sought shelter with U.S. diplomats. Handing himself over to security officials from Beijing he refused to leave with armed police officers sent by Bo from Chongqing. “He did not want to die,” Li said. [Source: Andrew Higgins, Washington Post, March 4, 2012]
Wang Lijun as Chongqing’s Gang-busting Police Chief
Wang Lijun was Chongqing’s police chief. Tania Branigan wrote in The Guardian, he became famous nationwide after leading a crackdown against organised crime in Chongqing launched by the region's high-profile party secretary, Bo Xilai. Their controversial anti-gang campaign led to more than 1,500 arrests and culminated in the execution of the city's former deputy police chief and top justice official, Wen Qiang, for corruption, rape and shielding organised crime. More than a dozen people caught up in Chongqing’s crackdown on crime have been executed. Others committed suicide.[Source: Tania Branigan, The Guardian, February 3, 2012]
Chongqing officials have reportedly commissioned a four-volume history of the anti-triad campaign, with a film and television series to follow. Wang's career seems made for the movies; according to the South China Morning Post, he has 20 scars from knife and bullet wounds and was once in a coma for 10 days due to his longterm battle with the triads.
The crackdown proved hugely popular with many residents—"If Wang is not in charge of the PSB, is Chongqing still going to be safe?" one commentator asked—although critics were alarmed by its methods. There was particular concern at the jailing of a lawyer for his defence of an alleged gang boss . Others argue it is impossible to root out organised crime because of the gang bosses' powerful connections.
In early February 2012, Chongqing's information office said on its blog the party committee had given Wang a new portfolio in charge of economic affairs in place of his public security post, the South China Morning Post reported. A few hours later, the office revised its message to say the 52-year-old would be in charge of issues including education, the environment and industrial and commercial management.
The abrupt transferral sent China's internet rumour mill into overdrive."A hero who fought as a triad-buster has been pushed aside to a vice-mayor position without real power—it is not only sadness for Chongqing but the whole of China," said one of many bloggers speculating that Wang was being sidelined because the portfolio was relatively junior.
But Bo Zhiyue, an expert on Chinese politics at the National University of Singapore, suggested the move was designed to prepare Wang—who became vice-mayor last spring—for higher office. "I think this is actually career enhancement ... To be promoted along the political path, to a mayor or provincial governor, he has to learn to deal with different issues," he said.
Lin Zhe, a professor with the party school of the CPC central committee, told the state-run Global Times newspaper: "Chongqing's work in cracking down on criminal gangs was called to an end early in 2010, when a meeting in the city was held to summarise the achievements of cracking down on gangs. "So Wang has fulfilled his task as an anti-gang hero, and it is time for him to explore new spaces in other fields."
Wang Lijun and Bo Xilai’s Crime-Fighting Effort
Bo and Wang knew each other from Liaoning Province, in northeast China, where both had risen through the ranks of their professions. Mr. Wang was brought to Chongqing in June 2008 as a deputy policy chief. Mr. Wang brought into the Chongqing police force a wiretapping expert, Wang Pengfei. (That Mr. Wang, no relation to the police chief, was one of four police officers found guilty last month of helping harbor Ms. Gu after the Heywood murder.) [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, September 17, 2012]
Wang Lijun, under the oversight of Mr. Bo, started an extensive wiretapping campaign throughout Chongqing. The aggressive police tactics were part of a ‘strike black’ campaign that became one of the signature policies under Mr. Bo. It was billed as a crackdown on organized crime and police corruption, but also resulted in the torture and imprisonment of business leaders, lawyers and other civilians now believed to have little or no ties to criminal activity. Over 10 months starting in June 2009, nearly 4,800 people were detained, and 13 were executed. [Ibid]
Before the dark side of the campaign became public, a team of writers had been hired to write a four-volume history of the crackdown, and a “Godfather”-style movie and television series were to follow. In April, after Mr. Bo had been ousted as party chief of Chongqing, a top party official in the city, Liu Guanglei, told senior and midlevel police officers that they should acknowledge any instances of torture that might have occurred in Chongqing. The meeting signaled the start of a wider inquiry into the campaign’s abuses. [Ibid]
Residents of Chongqing interviewed this year said they could not recall a police chief as flashy as Mr. Wang. He traveled with a group of policemen dressed in dark overcoats, and two officers would always catch his own overcoat when he took it off. In restaurants, he would demand that the entire floor be sealed off. He brought his own food and drink or asked that the restaurant’s be tested. When he drove to his police headquarters from a nearby home, officers cordoned off the route. [Ibid]
Along with the flashy image, Mr. Wang had a canny side. On Feb. 15, after he was taken to Beijing, a Chinese journalist, Chu Chaoxin, received a mysterious text message that said in part: “Briton Heywood was murdered in Chongqing; Wang Lijun investigated the case and found out Mrs. Bo is the suspect.” Some people now suspect Mr. Wang had previously arranged for an ally to send out the text. Mr. Chu posted the text on his microblog, an action that helped turn Mr. Heywood’s demise from merely a suspicious death into a worldwide murder mystery. [Ibid]
Wang Lijun's Involvement in Organ Harvesting
Matthew Robertson wrote in The Epoch Times: “The high-ranking Chinese official who sought to defect to the United States last week has a story to tell about his participation in thousands of atrocities—and may have already told it to U.S. consular officials. Wang Lijun, fearing that Bo Xilai, Chongqing’s Communist Party chief, meant to assassinate him, fled on February 6 to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu, a four-hour drive west. He spent over 24 hours in the consulate and, according to a Radio France International report, revealed to consular officials details about crimes committed by him and Bo. He then left Chengdu under the protection of Beijing security officials. [Source: Matthew Robertson, The Epoch Times, February 15, 2012]
Prominent among Wang’s crimes was his participation in forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience, a practice the Chinese regime has denied. Earlier in his career, Wang gave a speech in which he discussed his involvement in organ harvesting. In 2006, three years after becoming director of the public security bureau in Jinzhou City, Liaoning Province, Wang was given an award—but it wasn’t for fighting crime. Wang had done pioneering research on how best to transplant organs taken from prisoners—who were possibly still alive when their organs were removed—and honed his techniques over thousands of on site trials.
Wang received the award in September 2006 from the Guanghua Science and Technology Foundation, a charitable organization meant to promote science and technology to youth. According to its website it is under the direct leadership of the Communist Youth League, one of the Chinese Communist Party’s mass organizations used for recruitment. In Wang’s acceptance speech, which is still available online (and archived here), he thanks Guanghua Foundation staff for “painstakingly traveling” to Liaoning Province to observe his work.
He notes one time when Guanghua staff had to rush back from overseas to view a trial. “They wanted to witness organ transplantation and examine it from their point of view: organ transplant benefits the public and improves Chinese law enforcement in a humane and democratic way,” Wang said. “As we all know, the so-called “on the scene research” is the result of several thousand intensive on-site transplants,” he added.
In his acceptance speech, Wang said, “For a veteran policeman, to see someone being executed and to see this person’s organs being transplanted to several other persons’ bodies, it was profoundly stirring. This is a great endeavor that involved much hard work from many people. The secretary general of China Guanghua Foundation, Jinyang and his staff were right there at the transplant scene, they have experienced it all with us.” In a speech given on the occasion of Wang’s award, Ren Jinyang, the secretary general of the Guanghua Foundation, explained that Wang was recognized for his “basic research and on-site experiments” in making transplant recipients more receptive to organs. “They have created a brand new protective fluid,” Ren said. “After animal tests, out of body tests, and clinical operations, they have achieved an important milestone where the recipients become more receptive to a liver and kidney injected with such protective fluid.”
Researchers investigating China’s organ transplantation practices were troubled by the remarks and what they implied. “The so called “research scene” that Wang Lijun refers to is either an outright execution site with medical vans, or possibly a medical ward, where peoples’ organs are surgically removed,” said Ethan Gutmann, who has published extensively on organ harvesting from Chinese prisoners of conscience. He added that the injections that the award refers to are probably “anti-coagulants and experimental medications that lower the chance of immune-system rejection as the organ is passed between one living body—heart still beating, soon to expire from the trauma—to another.” Gutmann added that this is “normal medical practice” in China, where hospitals, military hospitals, and public security bureaus intersect.
“There is zero guarantee that consent was involved,” Gutmann said. “Ample evidence has come to light that the victims could well have been Uyghur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, “Eastern Lightning” Christians or—exponentially more likely—Falun Gong practitioners. In other words, Wang Lijun received an award for, at best, barbarism.” It is not possible to know what proportion of victims Wang referred to in his remark about “thousands” of on-site transplants were criminal prisoners and how many were political prisoners or prisoners of conscience, such as Falun Gong practitioners. Further, in China there is a range of nonviolent crimes that can be punished with the death penalty, but the communist state does not publish statistics detailing the numbers of people executed and their crimes.
Hu Jintao Draws Blood with the Wang Lijun Scandal
Willy Lam wrote in China Brief: “After apparently engineering the contretemps that have hit Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai, President Hu Jintao is putting additional pressure on other members of the Gang of Princelings—the political faction composed of senior cadres’ offspring. The political fortunes of Bo have nosedived following the recent detention of his key protégé, Wang Lijun, on alleged “economic crimes.” Regardless of the veracity about the speculation that the 62-year-old princeling offered to resign from the Politburo, Bo’s chances for making the Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) at the 18th Party Congress later this year seem over...Bo reportedly wrote a “letter of self-criticism” to the PBSC in which he blamed himself for failing to detect the alleged corruption and other misdemeanors of Wang. [Source: Willy Lam, China Brief (Jamestown Foundation), March 2, 2012]
Political observers in Beijing are closely watching two related developments. The first is which senior cadre will likely acquire the PBSC seat which Bo seemed to have a high chance of filling. The second and perhaps more significant issue is the fate of the so-called “Chongqing Model” associated with Bo, particularly the large-scale resuscitation of Maoist values and culture that is symbolized by the popular ‘singing red songs’ (changhong) campaign. Since the Wang Lijun saga, however, the mainstream media has been replete with commentaries advocating ideological and political liberalization. Particularly given that other pedigreed cadres such as Vice President Xi Jinping also have taken part in the changhong movement, are these pro-reformist articles yet another weapon used by President Hu and his associates to lay into the Gang of Princelings? Are there also possibilities that the recent outburst of reformist sentiments will persist beyond the 18th CCP Congress?
That Hu had a hand in bringing down Wang—and in the process crippling Bo’s promotion prospects—was attested to by reports in Beijing that in 2011 he asked the Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection (CCDI) to investigate corruption-related offences allegedly committed by Wang and his colleagues in Tieling... Wang’s replacement as Chongqing Police Chief is 42-year-old Guan Haixiang, who spent 15 years in the Communist Youth League’s regional and central offices but has no experience in police or political-legal system (zhengfa xitong) work.
Bo Xilai-Wang Lijun Meeting Before Wang Flees to the U.S. Consulate
On a meeting between Bo Xilai and Wang Lijun that took place before Wang fled to the Chengdu consulate, Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times: “According to a quasi-official version of that meeting—one presumably based on Mr. Wang’s account to Chinese investigators and circulated among party officials, Bo met with Wang Lijun on January 28, 2012 and presented Bo with evidence that Mr. Bo’s wife had been involved in a murder. Bo reportedly reacted angrily to Mr. Wang’s accusations. Wang told American officials he met in the nearby city of Chengdu and others that Mr. Bo punched him in the face.” [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, June 7, 2012]
The Japanese newspaper the Yomiuri Shimbun reported that Bo yelled, "Stop being an idiot!" as he punched Wang in the face. The newspaper also said that at the end of January, Wang tried to visit Bo to offer him greetings during Chinese New Year, but was turned away at the door. As he drove to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu, he telephoned a Chinese newspaper reporter he had met only once. "I fear my life could be in danger if I'm left alone with Bo," he said. When Wang fled to the Chengdu consulate, the New York Times reported, he begged for protection from Bo. Some people described Wang at the time as being unreasonably fearful, or even mentally unstable. [Ibid]
“Wong wrote in the New York Times: “Later “a different story has circulated among several people close to the two men, according to those who have heard it described to them. And it is a version of events that paints Mr. Bo in a different light, one that shows him as being less emotional and more calculating. That version goes like this: Mr. Wang actually confronted Mr. Bo on Jan. 18 with evidence linking Mr. Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, to the murder by poisoning of Neil Heywood, a British businessman and longtime friend of the Bo family. It was the first that Mr. Bo had heard of his wife’s alleged involvement in the death. Mr. Bo agreed at the time to allow Mr. Wang to act against his wife based on the evidence, even if that meant Ms. Gu would be put on trial. At the meeting, Mr. Wang also told Mr. Bo that three police officers had asked to be transferred from the investigation after they discovered the murder was tied to Mr. Bo’s family. [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, June 7, 2012]
That story was told to friends by Yu Junshi, a shadowy fixer in Mr. Bo’s inner court. Mr. Yu worked in the 1990s as an overseas intelligence agent and owned two dogs that bit a man to death in Chongqing in July 2011. He was also close to Mr. Wang and has been detained in the party’s broad investigation into Mr. Bo, who was dismissed as party chief of Chongqing in March and suspended from the party’s Politburo the next month. “At the meeting, Bo Xilai said, “Leave me alone for a while and let me think about this,” said a person who has met Mr. Yu and spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of being officially questioned over the events. “Then, to show he’s righteous, Bo Xilai said he would be willing to allow his wife to be tried.” Mr. Wang was pleased because Mr. Bo’s reaction showed that Mr. Bo trusted Mr. Wang, the person said, citing the story told by Mr. Yu. [Ibid]
“But on Jan. 21, Chen Cungen, the head of the Chongqing party branch’s organization department, which oversees personnel issues, told Mr. Wang that he would be transferred from the police chief post, according to the story that Mr. Yu told his friends. Then on Jan. 28, both Mr. Chen and Liu Guanglei, the head of the local politics and law committee, gave Mr. Wang formal notice of his removal from the police force. In this account, Mr. Bo did not deliver the message in person to Mr. Wang; the two never met again after their talk on Jan. 18. “Wang Lijun knows how to fool people,” said the person who has met Mr. Yu. “He appeared to accept this demotion to fool them.” [Ibid]
“But Mr. Wang was furious, and Mr. Yu met with him the night of Jan. 31 in a suite in police headquarters. Mr. Yu did not emerge until dawn. On Feb. 6, four days after his transfer was publicly announced, Mr. Wang drove to the United States Consulate in Chengdu with a file on the Heywood death, after having asked another senior police official, Wang Pengfei, to arrange a car, said people with police contacts in Chongqing. In the murky, rumor-filled world surrounding Mr. Bo’s downfall, it is unclear exactly where the truth lies in the different accounts of the final meeting between Mr. Bo and Mr. Wang, the police chief. Mr. Bo is known to be both baroque and shrewd, and he could have reacted in any number of ways in the meeting, people familiar with the two men say. [Ibid]
Report Explains Why Wang Lijun Sought Asylum
In March 2012, China Digital Times reported: A preliminary report circulated among Chinese government officials following the dismissal of Bo Xilai asserts that Bo had planned to disrupt a corruption investigation into his own family and purge Wang Lijun amid rumors of an attempted defection. A version of the report, posted on a Chinese Web site and verified independently, also stated that Wang Lijun had sought political asylum when he fled to a United States consulate to escape Mr. Bo’s wrath. [Source: New York Times, China Digital Times, March 20, 2012]
Michael Wines and Jonathan Ansfield wrote in the New York Times: The version of the party’s four-point report purports to explain why Mr. Wang fled to the consulate and how the party contained the damage. In essence, it states that Mr. Wang left Chongqing because he feared for his safety after telling Mr. Bo that his family was under criminal investigation. The party investigation’s “preliminary findings” state that Mr. Wang told Mr. Bo on Jan. 28 about “important cases related to the Bo family.” Mr. Wang told him that some investigators on the cases had felt pressured and sought to resign. [Source: Michael Wines and Jonathan Ansfield, New York Times, March 19, 2012]
“Comrade Bo Xilai was very dissatisfied with this,” the leaked transcript states. Within days, he arranged for Mr. Wang to be removed as police chief and demoted to a lesser role supervising education and science, without seeking the approval of the Ministry of Public Security, the document adds, “as rules dictated.” The report does not address why Mr. Wang, a subordinate of Mr. Bo’s, would have sought to pursue his own corruption investigation against his boss. Corruption inquiries against a leader of the rank of Mr. Bo would normally be conducted by investigators under the direct authority of the party elite in Beijing, not by a provincial official.
According to the report, after the Chongqing party authorities announced the move to the local police on Feb. 2, “investigations were initiated of Mr. Wang’s aides and the investigators of the cases against the Bo family, under pressure from Mr. Bo’s relatives and people who worked by Mr. Bo’s side.” “Wang Lijun felt that his own personal safety was under threat. He then decided to leave.”
The document states that Mr. Wang filed a formal request for political asylum with American consular officials after discussing “matters related to cooperation and exchange,” but does not elaborate. Rumors have been rife—and unverified—that Mr. Wang presented American officials with evidence of official corruption, and that he dispatched more evidence outside China for release in the event that someone should seek to harm him. Both those rumors and the party’s findings underscore the unusual degree to which reports of corruption dog the Chinese elite, and color citizens’ views of their leaders. Few complaints about the government are as widely shared, and few seem as resistant to solution as the issue of graft.
Incriminating Evidence Against Bo Xilai Brought by Wang Lijun
AP reported: Ties between Bo and Wang appeared to fray amid reports of an investigation into Wang's former subordinates at his former posting in the northeastern city of Tieling. Wang drove to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu after being transferred to a minor city government post. Unusual for party infighting, Bo's undoing unfolded in public. Wang's trip to the US Consulate was first rumored on the Internet and, after the US State Department confirmed the visit ,the government was forced to follow suit.
According to diplomats and other people familiar with the matter question b the Wall Street Journal Wang asked for political asylum in the U.S. consulate in Chengdu and presented what he said was documentary evidence against Mr. Bo. He was rejected because U.S. officials feared accepting him would severely damage relations with China. He was persuaded to hand himself over to Chinese central-government officials who took him to Beijing.
According to the New York Times Mr. Wang carried papers that he said implicated Mr. Bo’s family in a criminal inquiry of the death of a British businessman, Neil Heywood, an acquaintance of the Bo family. Mr. Bo and Mr. Wang are now said to be confined in Beijing while party officials investigate those and other claims.
Wang Lijun Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison
In September 2012, a Chinese court Wang Lijun, a former police chief, guilty of four criminal charges according to a report by Xinhua, the state news agency. Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times, Mr. Wang, 52, originally from Inner Mongolia, was found guilty of defection, abuse of power, taking bribes and bending the law for personal gain, the report said. The People’s Intermediate Court in Chengdu, where the trial took place last week, sentenced Mr. Wang to 15 years in prison.[Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, September 23, 2012]
Verdicts in Chinese criminal cases, especially those with a political dimension, are often predetermined. Mr. Wang’s sentence was relatively lenient; court officials had made the argument in his trial that mitigating factors should be taken into account when determining the verdict and punishment. With Mr. Wang’s trial over, Mr. Bo is the one remaining major figure in the matter yet to be tried.
Xinhua released an official account of Mr. Wang’s trial, including testimony asserting that Mr. Bo had slapped Mr. Wang on January 29, a day after Mr. Wang told Mr. Bo about his suspicions over Ms. Gu’s role in the Heywood murder. The Xinhua article did not name Mr. Bo as the person who slapped Mr. Wang, but the phrase used to describe him left no doubt about the slapper’s identity. The accusation of illegal surveillance (part of the abuses of power) was apparently related to Mr. Wang’s tenure as Chongqing police chief. [Ibid]
Some Republicans criticized the Obama administration in February for not giving Mr. Wang asylum. But American officials have said Mr. Wang did not apply for asylum. They said that he had feared being taken into custody by officials under Mr. Bo, but that after making calls to Beijing he appeared confident that would not happen and left the consulate of his own volition. The Xinhua account said Mr. Wang had filed an application for asylum during his 33-hour stay at the United States Consulate. [Ibid]
Wang Lijun’s Trial
Edward Wong write in the New York Times: “The official account of the trial also emphasized arguments from both the prosecutors and defense lawyers asking the court to show leniency toward Mr. Wang. The account said Mr. Wang had cooperated with investigations into transgressions by others. This was a reference to Ms. Gu’s case, but it might also have indicated that Mr. Wang helped with the inquiries concerning Mr. Bo. [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, September 23, 2012]
Court officials also laid out Mr. Wang’s role in the Heywood murder. Mr. Wang was accused of helping cover up for Ms. Gu after she told him that she had killed Mr. Heywood, and he was formally charged with bending the law for personal gain. Court officials also said that one day before the murder, Mr. Wang spoke about Mr. Heywood with Ms. Gu and agreed to keep the Briton under surveillance. [Ibid]
During Ms. Gu’s trial, court officials said Ms. Gu had killed Mr. Heywood because she believed he was threatening her son, Bo Guagua. The court account of Mr. Wang’s trial had a bizarre description of the son’s trying to drive to meet Mr. Wang at a city outside Chongqing one night and almost getting into an accident. That story was included in the account to show rising tensions between Mr. Wang and Ms. Gu in the weeks after the murder. [Ibid]
After Bo Xilai hit Mr. Wang on Jan. 19, the account said, Mr. Wang ordered his police allies to collect evidence that would show Ms. Gu’s involvement in the murder. Mr. Wang had several police officers keep separate pieces of evidence, including a blood sample from Mr. Heywood’s heart and a secret recording Mr. Wang had made of Ms. Gu confessing to him. After the authorities took him to Beijing, the account said, Mr. Wang asked a police ally, Li Yang, to turn over the blood sample to investigators. Mr. Wang’s lawyer, Wang Yuncai, who is not related to Mr. Wang, has said the Xinhua account of the proceedings was mostly accurate. But she disputed the accusation that Mr. Wang had taken bribes from two associates of the Bo family. [Ibid]
The charge against Mr. Wang of bending the law is based on suspicions that he knew that Ms. Gu had killed Mr. Heywood in November but sought to protect her, according to Xinhua, the state news agency. People attending Ms. Gu’s trial said court officials had argued that she even approached Mr. Wang to help her kill Mr. Heywood in a fake drug arrest, but that Mr. Wang refused to take part. [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, September 17, 2012]
The Xinhua account said Ms. Gu had testified that Mr. Wang initially promised to help cover up the crime. “He asked me to forget about it,” she said, according to the report. “It would have nothing to do with me in the future.” When Mr. Heywood’s body was discovered at a Chongqing hotel on Nov. 15, Mr. Wang specifically assigned a policeman, Guo Weiguo, to take charge of the investigation and recalled another officer who was already on the scene. The next morning, four policemen—Mr. Guo and three others—all agreed to report that Mr. Heywood died after drinking too much alcohol. Mr. Wang supported the assessment, the account said. The four policemen were tried in a separate trial for protecting Ms. Gu and found guilty. [Ibid]
The account said that on Nov. 17, Mr. Wang gave Ms. Gu the digital recording from a surveillance camera at the hotel where Mr. Heywood had died. It showed that Ms. Gu was the last person to leave the room that night. Mr. Wang explained in testimony why he had protected Ms. Gu. “After arriving in Chongqing, I frequently went to Bogu Kailai’s home,” he said. “I felt Bogu Kailai was quite nice to me.” Bogu is the official but rarely used surname of Bo Xilai's wife, Gu Kailai. [Ibid]
The trial was conducted behind closed doors in the imposing, grey stone Chengdu City Intermediate People's Court. Terril Yue Jones of Reuters wrote: Foreign reporters were barred from attending the trial amid tight security around the court house. A spokesman for the Chengdu Intermediate Court read out a statement to reporters in a nearby hotel, but no mention was made of Bo. "The accused Wang Lijun voluntarily gave himself up after committing the crime of defection, and then gave a truthful account of the main crimes involved in his defection," court spokesman Yang Yuguan said. [Source: Terril Yue Jones, Reuters, September 18, 2012]
"The accused Wang Lijun voluntarily gave himself up after committing the crime of defection, and then gave a truthful account of the main crimes involved in his defection," said the official statement published by state media. "The accused Wang Lijun exposed leads concerning major criminal offences by others, and played an important role in investigating and dealing with the cases concerned."
Wang Lijun's Testimony Implicates Bo
The Chinese government released an official account of the trial of Wang Lijun that essentially accused the disgraced politician Bo Xilai of trying to cover up the murder of Nick Heywood by Bo’s wife. Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times, The account was published by Xinhua said Mr. Lijun, told Mr. Bo on January 28 that his wife, Gu Kailai, was a serious suspect in the murder of Heywood. The next morning, Mr. Bo, scolded Mr. Wang and slapped him in the face, the report said. [Source: Edward Wong, September 19, 2012]
The fact that the Chinese government cited that incident in its official report of Mr. Wang’s trial, which took place in Chengdu is the surest sign yet that Mr. Bo could be charged with covering up the murder. Until now, there had been little sign of how the party might deal with his case; some analysts had said Mr. Bo might avoid criminal charges and be subject to party discipline measures instead. [Ibid]
The account of Mr. Wang’s trial suggests that Mr. Bo could be dealt with more harshly than some had expected. Mr. Bo’s name was not mentioned in the Xinhua report, but the phrase used to describe the person Mr. Wang told about the Heywood murder—“the Chongqing party committee’s main person responsible at the time”—is an unmistakable reference. [Ibid]
The Xinhua report does not say why Mr. Wang decided to confront Mr. Bo with the Heywood murder. But after Mr. Bo slapped him on Jan. 29, Mr. Wang asked three police allies to again collect evidence of Mr. Heywood’s murder. He instructed the police officers to keep the evidence in separate places, the report said. After he was taken to Beijing, he wrote a letter to one of the police allies, Li Yang, instructing him to give Mr. Heywood’s blood sample to investigators. [Ibid]
The account also laid out bribes that Mr. Wang had taken. It said Xu Ming, a tycoon close to the Bo family, gave Mr. Wang two properties in Beijing in 2009 that Mr. Xu had bought for more than $450,000. In July of that year, Mr. Wang released three people from custody at Mr. Xu’s request, the account said. Mr. Wang also took nearly $32,000 from Yu Junshi, a businessman, for the rental of Mr. Wang’s villa in Chongqing, the report said. In return, Mr. Wang released a detainee. Mr. Yu is a former military intelligence officer who worked as a fixer for the Bo family. Wang Yuncai, a lawyer for Mr. Wang, ontended that Mr. Wang had not taken bribes from Mr. Xu and Mr. Yu. Instead, she said, Ms. Gu arranged those favors through the men for Mr. Wang and Mr. Wang did not regard them as payments and did no favors in return. [Ibid]
Wang Lijun Paralyzed by Mysterious Illness: Boxun
In July 2013, Boxun, an overseas Chinese community website offering an alternative source of news on China, reported that Wang Lijun had been struck down by a mysterious paralyzing illness in prison, reports. According to Boxun's Beijing source, Wang has been paralyzed from the waist down and bedridden for nearly a month after being suddenly inflicted with a mysterious illness that doctors have yet to properly diagnose. The news has shocked his friends, who claim that Wang had seemed fine not that long ago and had been doing a lot of reading and practising calligraphy, the source said. [Source: Want China Times, July 7, 2013]
"A former subordinate of Wang's in Chongqing said the disgraced police chief suffered from a fatigue-related syndrome many years ago that affected his nervous system, and wondered whether the recent illness could be related. Though the truth of the report has not been verified, it has triggered speculation over whether Wang's mysterious debilitating condition could be linked to Bo's criminal trial. Wang was regarded as a key witness in the trial as it was the evidence he turned over to authorities that ended Bo's career and resulted in a suspended death sentence for Bo's wife Gu Kailai, who was convicted of the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood." [Ibid]
The 53-year-old Wang has been serving his 15-year sentence at Beijing's Qincheng maximum security prison since September 2012.
RUMORS OF A COUP DURING THE HEIGHT OF THE BO XILAI AFFAIR
Wu Zhong wrote in the Asia Times, While the authorities can forcefully ban open criticism, they have failed to stop the rumor mill. The most shocking rumors emerged on the Internet during the night of March 19, with some people saying "Military vehicles are rolling into Beijing", and that a "Curfew has been imposed on [Beijing's] Chang'an Street" and that "Gunshots are heard". [Source: Wu Zhong, Asia Times, March 28, 2012]
If not true, the messages metaphorically implied that the Communist Party's top leadership was split and "a new Gang of Four had been smashed". The "Gang of Four" refers to a faction in the politburo during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) headed by Mao Zedong's last wife, Jiang Qing, and supported by Mao. Less than a month after Mao's death, they were arrested in what overseas China watchers called a "coup d'etat", on October 6, 1976. These rumors were immediately challenged and refuted with strong evidence by other web surfers. As a result, inside China, the rumors died almost as quickly as they had emerged. This is a convincing example of freedom of speech in action; rumors cannot last long.
Still, the next day, Epoch Times, a newspaper run by the anti-communist Falungong, picked up on the rumors and splashed a big story. This caused a scare in Hong Kong, where the stock market dipped, although this was attributed to an adjustment, and most newspapers in Hong Kong did not play up the story. The suspicion is that the rumors were started by the new leftists and Bo's supporters, who want to see their ilk fighting at the power center against the established ruling elite.
As a Chinese saying has it, "There are no waves without wind." So why then did the rumors emerge and quickly spread” Zhou Yongkang, one of the nine members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo and in charge of law enforcement, was the first Standing Committee member to visit Chongqing. He gave high praise to Bo's campaigns to crack down on gangsters and to sing "Red Songs". Hearsay has it that Zhou's godson, Kong Tao, is a close friend of Wang. Through Wang, Bo became close to Zhou, supposition has it.
This argument claims that the attempted "coup" on the night of March 19 was launched by Zhou, though he is not named. (This on the surface is probable as Zhou could command the police, but in fact it is impossible because Zhongnanhai is tightly guarded by military soldiers - not the police). It also happened that on the day of March 19, Zhou presided over a national conference of law enforcement officials on how to maintain stability.
Two days later, another rumor surged that Zhou "has been kept under surveillance". Beijing was forced to react this time, at least partially in order to quash the rumor. State-run Xinhua News Agency reported on March 22 that Zhou had written a letter to a conference on law enforcement in Shanghai. Apart from all the officialese, Zhou hails in his letter the "correct leadership" of the party power center "headed by General Secretory Hu Jintao". In other words, he was given the opportunity to make known his position that he is on the side of Hu. Zhou then made a public appearance on March 26, attending the opening ceremony of a training class for regional party officials in charge of law enforcement in Beijing. Zhou called on all law enforcement officials across the country to "keep in line with" the party central leadership "on matters of principle".
Coup Rumors Spur China to Hem in Social Networking Sites
Ian Johnson wrote in the New York Times: China started a sweeping crackdown of its vibrant social networking media over the weekend, detaining six people, closing 16 Web sites and shutting off the comment function for China’s two most popular microblogs, run by Sina.com and Tencent. The campaign, which was put in place in stages over two days was directly linked to the political instability that has gripped China since one of its most charismatic politicians, Bo Xilai, lost his post in March. That spurred rumors of a coup, which the government-run Xinhua news agency cited as the reason for the measures. [Source: Ian Johnson, New York Times, March 31, 2012]
Xinhua quoted an official with the State Internet Information Office as saying that the sites had spread reports of “military vehicles entering Beijing and something wrong going on in Beijing.” The reports, which Xinhua said were carried on the sites meizhou.net, xn528.com and cndy.com.cn, stemmed from disagreements among senior leaders over whether to remove Mr. Bo, who is being investigated over accusations of corruption and abuse of power. One of his backers, the senior leader Zhou Yongkang, was said to be behind the planned coup, although most Chinese analysts have discounted this as a fabrication.
In addition to the six detainees “ whose names were not released “ Xinhua said others were “admonished and educated” and had promised to “repent.” The sites that were closed were relatively minor players in China. More noticeable for most Chinese was the decision to shut off the commenting services for microblogs run by the Sina Corporation and Tencent Holdings, which each have 300 million registered accounts.
On Sina’s Weibo service, users who tried to comment on posts after 8 a.m. Saturday were greeted with a message saying that microblogs contained “many rumors and illegal, destructive information.” The shutdown was necessary, the notice said, “to carry out a concentrated cleanup.” It said comments would be allowed starting Tuesday morning. The measures allowed users to post, but not comment on others’ posts.
Even though the actions are linked to the Bo Xilai affair, analysts say the government began to take steps last July, when a high-speed rail crash led to an outpouring of reports and criticism that cast doubt on the government’s version of events. Within a week, most critical posts were deleted.
Despite the official rationale that the measures are justified to promote accuracy, analysts note that China’s official news media itself often is inaccurate and presents only the government’s position. “The whole idea of rumors and interest in accuracy is a ruse,” said David Bandurski with the China Media Project at Hong Kong University. “It’s a moniker for control.”
AP reported: In a further sign of such concerns, a military newspaper urged troops to ignore rumors and remain loyal to the Communist Party. The People's Liberation Army Daily said Friday in an editorial that troops should "resolutely resist the incursion of all kinds of erroneous thoughts, not be disturbed by noises, not be affected by rumors, not be pushed by any undercurrent." [Source: AP, April 7, 2012[
AFP reported: In another sign of the state's tight policing of the web “ known as the "Great Firewall" “ Xinhua said 1,065 people had been arrested since February 14 during an operation in Beijing to combat Internet crime. More than 3,000 websites had also received warnings after police targeted the smuggling of firearms, drugs and toxic chemicals, and the sale of human organs and personal information online, Xinhua said. In an editorial, the People's Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party, pledged to punish those responsible for the "lies and speculation". "Online rumours undermine the morale of the public and if out of control, they will seriously disturb the public order and affect social stability," said the newspaper, according to Xinhua. [Source: AFP, March 30, 2012]
China Lifts Microblog Controls That Sparked Outcry
A few days later AP reported: China's two biggest microblog sites resumed normal service after a three-day ban on posting comments that sparked complaints about censorship amid the country's worst high-level political crisis in years. The temporary suspension by Sina's Weibo.com and Tencent's t.qq.com followed a flurry of rumors online about the downfall of a prominent Communist Party figure, Bo Xilai. [Source: AP, April 3, 2012]
The two companies said in statements on their websites that the shutdown was aimed at "cleaning up" illegal and harmful information posted on some microblogs but gave no details. During the suspension, users could post on their own microblogs but were barred from making comments on others' accounts. It was unclear whether the suspension on Sina and Tencent was ordered by regulators or the companies took action on their own after being scolded about comments on their sites. State media said the two sites were "severely criticized" by regulators.
The surprise suspension triggered indignation from microbloggers. "Commenting is our inalienable right," microblogger Li Xuepeng wrote Tuesday after full service was restored. "What we need to do and must do is to speak up, until the right will not be taken away." "I'd like to call upon the government to release information in an open, timely and transparent manner," Zhao wrote on his microblog.
The main party newspaper People's Daily warned earlier that "rumors and lies packaged as 'facts'" would "disrupt social order" and "harm social integrity." During the suspension, users tried to circumvent the ban by reposting microblog entries that already were online and sometimes adding their own words. "The result of banning comments was a surge in reposting. It did nothing to stop rumors from spreading," Han Han, a popular online commentator, wrote on his own microblog. "This has nothing to do with regulating but power-flaunting and warning. What it says is if I can take away commenting from you for three days, I can make you lose microblogging forever."
China Cracks Down on the Websites of Bo Xilai's Supporters
Dexter Roberts of Bloomberg wrote: It’s the latest crackdown on China’s rambunctious Web. On April 6 nationalist website Utopia, which had run hundreds of articles supporting former Party Secretary Bo Xilai and the Chongqing model, named after the southwestern city he ran with neo-Maoist zeal, was shut down indefinitely. That followed an initial shuttering of Utopia, at the time of Bo’s dismissal on March 15, with the site then allowed to reopen just days later. [Source: Dexter Roberts, Bloomberg, April 09, 2012]
According to a notice posted on Utopia the day of its latest closure, local Internet and public security bureaus informed the site it was being punished for publishing “articles that violated the constitution, maliciously attacked state leaders, and speculated wildly about the 18th Party Congress (this Congress takes place in the fall and will mark the transition to a new leadership). Utopia was told it must undergo “a self-inspection beginning from noon on April 6, 2012, to be brought back online after an examination was passed,” explained the initial notice. That notice was later replaced by one simply saying, “Website under construction.”
Even as Beijing once again asserts its heavy hand over the Chinese Web, many are wondering why it waited so long. Indeed, more notable than the latest crackdown has been the surprising openness allowed over the past month. That’s not to say there has been any trend of liberalization, however, argues Jeremy Goldkorn, founding director of Beijing-based Danwei, a China Internet and media research firm. He points to the new rule that requires bloggers to use their real names to register—only partially enforced, to date—as proof of a counter, tightening trend.
Rather, the relative looseness seen recently is due to the substantial challenge Beijing authorities face in monitoring the world’s largest Internet population. China has 485 million Internet users and 300 million registered micro-bloggers, according to Zhang Xinsheng, an official from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, as reported by Xinhua late last year. “This is more because it has become a Sisyphean task to monitor the Internet,” says Goldkorn, pointing to how difficult it is for censors and software to keep up with evasive tactics, such as the regular use of puns and homonyms by China’s netizens. To get around censorship on the Web, for example, supporters of Bo Xilai have referred to him by using the characters for “bu hou,” meaning literally, “not thick.” That’s because the Chinese character for “Bo” can also mean “thin” when pronounced slightly differently.
At the same time, it appears the Internet has become a battleground for different factions within China or, more specifically, for those wishing to bring down Bo during the unfolding scandal. “It is true they did not clamp down on the Wang Lijun and Bo Xilai rumors at first. Some of the stuff that was spread online seemed to be allowed in order to blacken Bo Xilai’s name,” says Danwei’s Goldkorn. “I think Bo’s enemies have used the Internet to hasten his downfall.”
AP reported: Another prominent pro-Maoist website, Maoflag.net, also appeared to be shut down. The move appears to be part of wider censorship aimed at stifling discussion of Bo's downfall, the highest-level political sacking in years. Websites such as Utopia oppose privatization of the economy and other Western-style reforms, and have sometimes been critical of China's current leadership. They also promote the achievements of Mao, who led a bloody two-decade revolution that ended with the establishment of Communist China in 1949 and held power until his death in 1976. His policies plunged the nation into years of famine and led to the deaths of tens of millions. [Source: AP, April 7, 2012[
Tabloid Politics Chinese-Style and the Bo Xilai Affair
Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times: The Bo Xilai affair became a raging tabloid-style scandal (minus the tabloids because China has none) with a dead Englishman, a fiery sports car crash and an attempted defection to the US. “The mystery of palace politics is more entertaining than democracy, where everything can be analyzed,” Chinese columnist Chang Ping wrote last week. “There can be fierce fighting even until death behind the black curtains and if any sign of blood leaks, people get really excited. [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2012]
“You see, China does have politics and it is more interesting than in the United States,” said Yang Jianli, a Chinese dissident who lives in Washington. Of course, not a word of it has been in the Chinese press. But officials within the Communist Party—like the opposition research team for an American politician—appear to be making deliberate leaks. “In the past, all of the negative reports about Bo Xilai were blocked. Now all of the positive reports are deleted and the negative ones can stay online. It’s been a little bit confusing,” said Li Ping, 24, who is working on a master’s degree at Chongqing University.
The damaging internal report that accused Bo of obstructing an investigation appeared on Boxun.com, a US-based Chinese-language site that has become like Politico for China’s political junkies. The Epoch Times, run by the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, has also carried many of the reports.
Even stranger, Wang’s run to the US Consulate was covered in minute-by-minute detail on Sina Weibo, the Twitter-like microblog popular in China. The blogger, who used the pseudonym Sun Dapao, described dialogue between the US officials and Wang and added intriguing details - for example, that Wang had managed to slip out of his home undetected by disguising himself as an elderly woman. “Highly entertaining, like gossip with tea,” is how Ran Yunfei, a Chengdu-based writer-activist, described the unfolding scandal. Ultimately the government launched an Internet crackdown that shuttered some web sites and limited access to Sina Weibo.
Zhang Ziyi and Getting Around Clampdowns on the Internet Related to Bo Xilai
Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times: “One of China’s most famous actresses has filed a libel suit against two prominent Hong Kong news organizations over articles saying she was paid to have sex with Bo Xilai, the deposed Communist Party official. The actress, Zhang Ziyi, sued Apple Daily, a well-known tabloid newspaper, and Next Magazine Publishing, both of which are owned by Next Media. Executives at the companies have declined to comment. Apple Daily reported this spring that Ms. Zhang made $110 million by sleeping with Mr. Bo and other officials in recent years; the article said she was introduced to Mr. Bo by Xu Ming, a tycoon who has been detained in the Bo investigation. Mr. Bo, a former Politburo member, is being investigated for abuse of power. [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, June 13, 2012]
Duncan Hewitt wrote in China Beat, the Chinese government “blocked the use of (and searches for) the names of Bo Xilai, Neil Heywood, and Wang Lijun. The authorities have had to work hard policing the Internet against critical comment...Yet many people have sought ways to get around the blockade, using abbreviations and homonyms. And opinions are clearly less unified than the official media would seek to have the nation believe. For all that newspapers like the Global Times ran headlines suggesting that the detention of a member of the party’s inner circle, apparently in connection with a murder investigation, was a stirring symbol of the party’s commitment to the rule of law , cynics on the Internet were busy suggesting that it was, in fact, a sign of just how rotten the upper echelons of the party appear to have become. [Source: Duncan Hewitt China Beat, April 17, 2012]
Ferrari Crash Spurs Rumors
Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times: a fiery car crash in Beijing involving a black Ferrari prompted rumors that a witness in the Heywood case had been killed or perhaps one of the Politburo members’ children—who are known to favor overpriced sports cars. [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2012]
Mark McDonald wrote in the New York Times: the precipitous fall of Bo Xilai, has read like a John le Carré rewrite of Raymond Chandler...Here’s the No. 9 story, as reported by Baidu Beat: “At around 4 a.m. Sunday morning, a Ferrari crashed into a bridge in Beijing, killing one passenger and severely injuring the other two. The cause of the crash is unknown." Bloggers, microbloggers and tweeters quickly seized on the story, lighting up the Sinosphere with photos, rants and rumors. The intrigue grew when the Beijing police refused to comment about the accident. [Source: Mark McDonald, New York Times, March 20, 2012]
By Tuesday morning, a story in the English-language version of the Communist Party newspaper Global Times said that “almost all online information" about the crash had been deleted overnight, “triggering suspicions as to the identity of the deceased driver." The paper said the popular Sina Weibo service “deleted all microblog posts which mentioned the accident, and blocked online searches of the word “Ferrari.” The Global Times also found that news reports about the crash were deleted from many Web portals."
Traffic accidents involving luxury cars have their own particular lore in China, especially in Beijing, where many politicians, party princelings and their children drive (or are driven in) high-end sedans and S.U.V.’s. (Mr. Bo’s son Guagua, for example, is said to drive a red Ferrari.) The Atlantic, called the Global Times story of a possible cover-up of the Ferrari crash “amazing” and “astounding” because it was being published by a state-run media outlet.
Bo called "nonsense" reports, widely circulated on the Chinese internet, that his son, Bo Guagua, was seen driving around Beijing in a red Ferrari sports car. He said Guagua's education at Oxford and Harvard was paid by scholarships. "These people who have formed criminal blocs have wide social ties and the ability to shape opinion," he said of his critics. "There are also, for example, people who have poured filth on Chongqing, and poured filth on myself and my family." Asked whether he would bear responsibility for Wang's actions, Bo said: "As long as it happened in Chongqing, I have responsibility for it."
Mystery Crash Leads to Online Ban of “Ferrari” in China
Leo Lewis wrote in The Times: “Censors in China have excised the word Ferrari from the country's biggest social networking sites in an attempt to suppress all public discussion of a sensitive mystery car crash. The ban followed a burst of speculation that the young driver killed in the high-speed accident on Sunday may have been the son of a senior Communist Party official, thus raising awkward questions about how a civil servant could afford to buy his offspring one of the world's most desirable and expensive cars. [Source: Leo Lewis, The Times, March 20, 2012]
China's internet censors have a number of ways of banning particular words or phrases from Sina Weibo and other microblogging sites. The simplest and most regularly used method is to remove the offending term from the site's internal search engine. A more extreme tactic - and the one used in the case of Ferrari - automatically removes any post containing that word. Hints at the extreme political sensitivities surrounding the crash emerged as other words and names joined the list of banned words while newspaper reporters revealed that they had been forbidden from investigating or writing about the crash.
A brief local newspaper report on the crash, which occurred shortly after 4am on Sunday in Beijing and apparently involved a Ferrari F430, was swiftly removed from the website. The ban was imposed with the ruling Communist Party in the throes of its most public political turmoil for more than 20 years after the downfall of Bo Xilai.
Internet censors have been busy since the sacking of Bo Xilai as party boss of the sprawling city of Chongqing. His name and those of other family members have been blocked as search items. The Government appears especially keen to snuff out speculation about Mr Bo amid reports that he may be under house arrest pending a fuller investigation of his conduct. Mr Bo has his own Ferrari link: he recently dismissed as nonsense that his Harrow and Oxford-educated son, Bo Guagua, drove a red Ferrari.
The exact circumstances of Sunday's crash, beyond the fact that pictures of the twisted wreckage clearly showed it was a black Ferrari, are unclear. The driver, thought to have been in his 20s, was travelling with two young women sharing the single passenger seat. They reportedly survived the crash but with severe injuries.
Bo Guagua at Harrow and Oxford
Andrew Higgins and Maureen Fan wrote in the Washington Post, “Before his ouster, Bo Xilai had an official annual salary of less than $20,000. But his son attended Harrow School, an exclusive private academy in London with annual fees of about $48,000; then Oxford, which, for overseas students, costs more than $25,000 a year just in tuition. [Source: Andrew Higgins and Maureen Fan, Washington Post, May 18 2012]
“During his final year at Oxford University in England, Bo Guagua ran into trouble because of inattention to his studies. When the university initiated a disciplinary process against him, the Chinese Embassy in London sent a three-person diplomatic delegation to Oxford to discuss the matter with Bo’s tutor at Balliol College, according to an academic who was involved in the episode and who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be able to speak candidly. The embassy did not respond to a request for comment. [Ibid]
“The embassy trio pleaded on Bo’s behalf, stressing that education is very important to the Chinese, the academic said. The tutor replied that Bo should, in that case, learn to study more and party less. The intervention by Chinese diplomats didn’t help Bo and, in December 2008, he was “rusticated” for failing to produce academic work of an adequate standard, an effective suspension that, under Oxford regulations, meant he lost his “right of access” to all university facilities. Barred from college housing, Bo moved into a pricey local hotel. He was, however, allowed to take a final examination in 2010. Despite his banishment from classes, he performed well and received a degree. [Ibid]
“He was a bright student,” said the Oxford academic, who knew Bo Guagua at the time. But “in Oxford, he was suddenly freer than anything he had experienced before and, like a good many young people in similar circumstances, it was like taking the cork out of a bottle of champagne.” [Source: Andrew Higgins and Maureen Fan, Washington Post, May 18 2012]
Bo Guagua at Harvard
Bo Guagua played polo and was seen driving a Porsche in Cambridge, Massachuseets. Andrew Higgins and Maureen Fan wrote in the Washington Post, “Harvard’s Kennedy School, which, according to its own estimates, requires about $70,000 a year to cover tuition and living expenses... Fury greeted photographs that showed Bo Guagua cavorting at parties with Western women at a time when his father was promoting a neo-Maoist revival in Chongqing and urging the city’s 33 million residents to reconnect with the austere values of the party’s early years. [Source: Andrew Higgins and Maureen Fan, Washington Post, May 18 2012]
“Ezra F. Vogel, a Harvard professor who said he knows Bo Guagua, told the Washington Post , Bo’s image as a wild playboy is “greatly exaggerated.” The cook at a fast-food eatery near his Cambridge apartment building said Bo Guagua used to come in regularly but didn’t make much of an impression. “He just ordered the usual stuff, BLTs. Nothing special,” said the cook, who gave his name as Mustafa. Staff at Changsho, a Chinese restaurant, however, remember a more extravagant customer. Late one evening, for example, Bo came in alone, ordered four dishes and left after barely touching the food. “He didn’t even ask for a doggie bag,” recalled a restaurant worker, appalled at the waste. [Ibid]
“After the fall of his mother and father Bo Guagua stopped attending classes and moved out of a serviced apartment building with a uniformed doorman near Harvard Yard. (Rents there range from $2,300 to $3,000 a month.) People who know him at Harvard say he had earlier split up with his girlfriend, fellow Harvard student Sabrina Chen, the granddaughter of Chen Yun, a powerful party baron. Bo Guagua “is very worried about what might happen to his mother,” Vogel told the Washington Post after he had received a visit from a “very anxious” Bo during of the brouhaha over parents. [Ibid]
Bo Guagua Defends Himself in a Statement to Harvard Crimson
Harvard Kennedy School student Bo Guagua corresponded with Crimson staff writers Hana N. Rouse and Justin C. Worland via his Kennedy School and Google email accounts and sent The Crimson a statement, which is published verbatim below. At the time it was written Bo was no longer at his Harvard apartment. His whereabouts was not known. [Source: The Crimson, April 24, 2012]
To Whom It May Concern...Recently, there has been increasing attention from the press on my private life. As a result of these speculations, I feel responsible to the public to provide an account of the facts. I am deeply concerned about the events surrounding my family, but I have no comments to make regarding the ongoing investigation. It is impossible to address all of the rumours and allegations about myself, but I will state the facts regarding some of the most pertinent claims. Facts:
My tuition and living expenses at Harrow School, University of Oxford and Harvard University were funded exclusively by two sources’scholarships earned independently, and my mother’s generosity from the savings she earned from her years as a successful lawyer and writer. [Ibid]
“ My examination records have been solid throughout my schooling years. In the British public examination of GCSEs, which I completed at the age of 16, I achieved 11 “A Stars,” whereas the necessary requirement is no more than 9 and “A” grades are considered good marks. I also earned straight A’s for both AS level and A-level Examinations at the ages of 17 and 18, respectively. [Ibid]
“ At the University of Oxford, I studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics. I was a “tripartite”, being enrolled in all three subjects, rather than dropping one in the second year, as is the norm. Upon graduating, I earned a 2:1 degree (Second Class, First Honours) overall and achieved a First in Philosophy. [Ibid]
“ During my time at Oxford, it is true that I participated in “Bops,” a type of common Oxford social event, many of which are themed. These events are a regular feature of social life at Oxford and most students take part in these college-wide activities. [Ibid]
“ Like many other university students, I also devoted time and energy to extra-curricular activities. For example, I debated in the Oxford Union and served as president of the Politics, Philosophy and Economics Society. These extra-curricular activities enabled me to broaden my perspective, serve the student community, and experience all that Oxford has to offer. I am proud to have been the first mainland Chinese student to be elected to the Standing Committee of the Oxford Union, and I truly value the close friendships I formed with my fellow students. [Ibid]
“ I have never lent my name to nor participated in any for-profit business or venture, in China or abroad. However, I have been involved in developing a not-for-profit social networking website in China, the aim of which is to assist NGOs in raising awareness of their social missions and connecting with volunteers. This initiative has been based out of the Harvard Innovation Lab, with the participation of fellow students and friends. The project remains in the development stage and is not live. [Ibid]
“ I have never driven a Ferrari. I have also not been to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing since 1998 (when I obtained a previous U.S. Visa), nor have I ever been to the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence in China. Even my student Visas were issued by the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu, which is closer to my home of five years. [Ibid]
“I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank my teachers, friends and classmates for their support during this difficult time. In particular, I wish to thank the Harvard Kennedy School for the support it has extended to me as a member of its community. I understand that at the present, the public interest in my life has not diminished. However, I wholeheartedly request that members of the press kindly refrain from intruding into the lives of my teachers, friends and classmates...Faithfully, Bo Guagua
In an interview with The New York Times Bo rebutted a story that he had driven a red Ferrari to pick up a daughter of Jon M. Huntsman Jr., the American ambassador to China at the time, from the ambassador’s residence for a date.
Son of China's Bo Xilai graduates from Harvard
Bo Guagua graduated from Harvard University in May 2012 year and is still believed to be in the United States. Reuters reported: “The son of fallen Chinese politician Bo Xilai graduated from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, capping a tumultuous academic year that also placed him in the centre of his homeland's biggest leadership crisis in two decades. Bo Guagua, whose perceived lavish lifestyle overseas has created a firestorm on the Internet back in China, wore a black cap and gown with crimson hood when he accepted his diploma at a commencement ceremony in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He flashed a broad smile and joined several hundred other students who came from all corners of the globe to study at the Ivy League school. [Source: Tim McLaughlin, Reuters, May 24, 2012]
“Bo Guagua received a master's degree in public policy. After stepping off the graduation stage, he waved to friends in the audience. Approached by Reuters after the ceremony, Bo Guagua declined to talk about his plans. "I just want to enjoy the day and spend time with my classmates," he said in a British-tinged accent. He then hugged friends and chatted with faculty. [Ibid]
“Even before his parents' troubles, Bo Guagua, 24, had become the subject of gossip in China for his elite schooling and perceived extravagance. Media reported a fondness for luxury cars and raised questions about how the family could afford to send him to some of the world's top schools and universities, including Harrow, Oxford and Harvard, on his father's limited state salary. [Ibid]
“Bo Guagua became the focus of online gossip when photos appeared of him bare-chested and smeared with lipstick at a college party and participating in campus pranks in Britain. In recent weeks, though, Bo Guagua has kept a lower profile. Classmates and acquaintances told Reuters he has skipped some pre-graduation parties on the advice of his family. [Ibid]
Bo Guagua is currently believed to be living in the United States.
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
© 2008 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated December 2013