The Ballad of Bo Xilai
In the United States we often take for granted the many freedoms bestowed on us by our Constitution. We need to be reminded of that from time to time to fully appreciate the many blessings we have living in this country.
Today’s reminder comes from Bo Xilai. His fate is a lessen for all of us.
Less than two months ago, Bo Xilai was one of the most powerful men in all of China.
He was Communist Party Chief of Chongqing in Southwest China. Chongqing, a city of over 28 million people, is larger than the entire New York City metropolitan area, and one of only 5 politically powerful national central cities in China.
Bo Xilai was a member of China’s Politburo and rumored to be next in line to become part of China’s 9-member Politburo Standing Committee… the innermost circle of Chinese power.
Bo is the son of one of the Eight Elders of the Communist Party of China and, as such, bestowed great respect and power.
Under his leadership, Chongqing maintained consistent double digit GDP growth. His promotion of cultural revolution “red culture” reforms and egalitarian values made him the champion of China’s New Left.
Bo Xilai, however, is the ruthless product of a deeply corrupt political system.
The Wang Lijun Incident
On February 6th, 2012 former Chongqing Police Chief Wang Lijun entered the U.S. Consulate in the city of Chengdu where he remained about 24 hours.
Chengdu is in an entirely different province from Chongqing.
A week earlier Wang had been demoted by Bo Xilai in what is believed to be a power struggle within Chongqing amid corruption allegations made against Bo Xilai and his family.
Bo is also implicated in the death of a British national last year.
In today’s Bloomberg, “U.K. Asks China to Probe Death of Citizen in Bo’s Chongquing“, it is reported that the UK is asking China to launch an investigation into the mysterious death of British businessman Neil Heywood who had close links to Bo Xilai.
Details are sketchy but, fearing for his life, it is believed Wang might have attempted to defect to the United States.
Bo took the unusual step to dispatch 70 carloads of his own security forces all the way to Chengdu, outside his jurisdiction, and surrounded the U.S. Consulate. Many of Wang’s close allies and associates had already been arrested.
After central authorities demanded Xilai’s forces stand down, Wang left the consulate of his own volition and was taken to Beijing by agents of the Ministry of State Security, not back to Chongqing.
To discredit him, Chongqing’s municipal government announced Wang was “seriously indisposed due to long term overwork and intense mental stress. Currently he has been authorized to undergo vacation-style medical treatment.”
But, apparently, the only person getting treatment is Bo Xilai.
Bo Xilai’s Undoing
At the Congress Bo was directly questioned about the Wang Lijun incident and acknowledged to “negligent supervision” and that he “trusted the wrong person”.
In unusually candid remarks at Chinese Premier Wen’s last official news conference, Wen said the investigation into the Wang Lijun incident had yielded significant progress and that local officials should “ponder and learn from the incident”.
On March 15th, in a terse one-line statement, it was announced that Bo Xilai was dismissed from his post as party chief for Chongqing.
Bo Xilai, his wife, his son and his son’s wife have not been seen or heard from since.
That is what happens in China when you fall out of favor… you disappear. There is a total information blackout.
On March 23rd, London’s Financial Times sent reporters to try and interview Bo, his wife and/or his son at Bo Xilai’s current residence in Beijing. They were told by a young military officer who answered the door that “they’re not available to accept interviews” for the media and to “go away”.
Its unclear if the presence of the officer is just normal security provided for high ranking officials or means the family has been arrested. Given he has been removed from his post… welll…
In a few years China will surpass the United States as the world’s largest economy.
The sudden disappearance of Bo Xilai proves that corruption exists at all levels of Chinese government and that no matter who you are or how powerful you become, it can all come tumbling down with a single one-line announcement.
Bo’s downfall is roughly like President Obama suddenly saying, “Harry Reid has been fired as Senate Majority Leader” and then nobody ever hears from him again.
Now, as appealing as that idea is to some, in a democracy the preferred method to get rid of politicians is through the ballot box or, in the case of unlawful conduct, through due process.
None of that exists in China.
Note, too, that Wang Lijun sought asylum at the U.S. Consulate. The United States is still the bright beacon of liberty and justice for the entire world.
Be thankful for what you have.