Bo Xilai named as chairman of China’s newest party

Wang Zheng, founder of the new party, is a follower of Bo Xilai, who was sentenced to life in prison earlier this year. Picture: AP
Wang Zheng, founder of the new party, is a follower of Bo Xilai, who was sentenced to life in prison earlier this year. Picture: AP
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A SUPPORTER of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai said yesterday that she has set up a new political party and named the imprisoned former official its chairman.

Wang Zheng said that the Zhi Xian Party was established last Wednesday in Beijing with the objective of bringing “common prosperity” to China.

The name of the party roughly translates to “supreme authority of the constitution”.

Ms Wang, a Beijing-based lecturer, said she wrote letters to Bo about her plan to start the party but named him chairman without his express consent. She also refused to provide more details about the party’s membership except saying indirectly that there were at least a dozen members.

The move poses personal risk for her but little threat to the Communist Party.

“I can only tell you that we have more members than the number of people who attended the Communist Party’s first congress after it was established,” Ms Wang said.

Twelve deputies attended the Communist Party’s first congress in Shanghai in 1921.

China allows a small number of officially recognised alternative parties, although they serve as advisers rather than competitors to the ruling Communist Party. People have been jailed for setting up and participating in other political parties, mostly on charges of subverting state power.

The appeal of Ms Wang’s party appears limited, with several prominent Maoist commentators saying in interviews that they were not members of the party and had not even heard about it.

Discussions about the new party on leftist websites which have been supportive of Bo ranged from expressing scepticism to questioning whether Ms Wang had the right to appoint Bo as chair of the party without his permission.

Ms Wang represents the type of residual support that Bo still has among those who have been angered by economic reforms over the past three decades that have entrenched a new elite while leaving out others.

Ms Wang said the party seeks to protect the state’s ownership of key sectors and share wealth with the poor.

Bo was a rising star in China’s leadership circles and cultivated a loyal following through his charisma and populist, quasi-Maoist, policies.

But his career was stopped short last year by a murder scandal in which his wife was convicted of poisoning a British businessman, Neil Heywood.

Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, and his estranged police chief, Wang Lijun, have both been jailed over the scandal stemming from the November 2011 murder of Mr Heywood in the south-western city of Chongqing, where Bo was Communist Party boss.

Bo was convicted in September of embezzlement, bribery and abuse of power and sentenced to life in prison. His social policies earned him a limited popularity mostly among the region’s farmers and low-paid workers.

Bo, a former commerce minister, used his post as party boss of Chongqing to cast the sprawling, haze-covered municipality into a showcase for his mix of populist policies and bold spending plans.

Last month a court in eastern China rejected an appeal by Bo and upheld his life sentence.