China debates secret purge or public trial for fallen politician
Communist party leaders are discussing how to finally finish off fallen politician Bo Xilai without further damaging the party’s image – facing a choice of the traditional secret purge, or putting him on public trial.
Analysts and a veteran party member have said leaders are leaning toward a trial. But either way, the challenge is to prevent allegations that Bo abused his power and that his wife was involved in the murder of a British businessman, from upsetting a once-a-decade leadership transition just months away.
“Bo’s political life is at an end,” said Li Datong, a state media editor forced from a senior job for discussing sensitive subjects. “But the party will work to ensure that this goes no bigger and harms their image no more than absolutely possible.”
After months of investigation and high-level deliberations, leaders believe a trial will have more public legitimacy, according to analysts and a veteran party member who has been informed of progress in the talks and who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Communist Party’s internal investigators are working with prosecutors to whittle down the charges to portray Bo’s infractions as individual acts unrelated to the system, the party member said.
While the unproven allegations against Bo range from illegal wiretapping to illicit sexual liaisons, the ones that are likely to reflect worst on the party involve corruption and flouting basic laws. Many Chinese see those vices as endemic among their leaders.
Putting Bo, 62, on trial would highlight how much public expectations in China are changing the ways the party must operate. In its totalitarian heyday, the party never felt it needed to show accountability or publicly explain a purge.
In the party’s last major internal crisis – the Tiananmen Square democracy movement in 1989 – the leadership split over dispatching the military to quell the protests.
Party general secretary Zhao Ziyang was removed from power, but never expelled, for his opposition and spent more than 15 years under house arrest until his death.
Bo, 62, amassed a big public following as party boss of mega-city Chongqing. His reputation for cracking down on organised crime and championing social equality and communist nostalgia made him popular among poorer Chinese. Yet he also alienated colleagues, who saw his populist flamboyance as a threat.
After a close aide fled to a US consulate in February and divulged suspicions that Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, had been involved in the death of British businessman Neil Heywood, his detractors moved to bring him down. Bo was sacked as Chongqing’s leader in March, and a month later suspended from the Politburo and placed under investigation. His wife faces criminal charges.
His popularity makes Bo’s case particularly tricky and bolsters the chance for a trial.
When that might happen is not clear. The leadership handover – in which president Hu Jintao and most others will cede their posts to vice president Xi Jinping and a new group of leaders – will formally take place at a congress in the autumn.
An announcement about Bo is expected well before then.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 15 C
Wind Speed: 22 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 24 mph
Wind direction: North