BEIJING (AP) — One of China’s highest-profile politicians interfered in an investigation involving a family member before he was fired last week, according to a leaked transcript that has escalated what already was the country’s biggest political scandal in years.
Bo Xilai’s removal as Communist Party boss of Chongqing city appears to have brought a screeching stop to the career of one of the country’s most ambitious politicians.
The scandal has played out in an exceptionally public way — albeit with few concrete details released — and has fueled speculation that Bo’s ouster was linked to competition for top spots when a new generation of national leaders is installed later this year.
The nepotism allegation against Bo is unusual, partly because such abuse of power is believed to be widely tolerated among Chinese officials. It was unclear whether Bo was being punished for his own missteps or those of his underlings — or whether his hubris and self-promotion have run afoul of the staid Communist Party elite.
Bo was dismissed Thursday as part of an investigation into Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun’s flight to a U.S. Consulate in what the leaked transcript of official comments said was a panicky attempt to gain political asylum. Wang has been placed under custody and his actions denounced as a serious breach of discipline.
Little had been known publicly about what prompted Wang’s asylum attempt, or the nature of the apparent rift in his once-close relationship with Bo, who hand-picked him to lead the Chongqing force and carry out a wide-ranging crackdown on organized crime.
However, a transcript of remarks by an unnamed official from the Communist Party’s General Office that have circulated on the Internet say that Bo tried to sideline Wang in late January after Wang informed him of an investigation into one of Bo’s relatives. The relative was not identified. As the offspring of one of communist China’s founding fathers, Bo and his family enjoy considerable influence.
The General Office remarks, said to have been delivered orally to leading officials last week, were released Tuesday mostly on websites outside China, including the usually reliable dwnews.com and Boxun.com
They said that Bo was “displeased” with Wang because of the investigation, and transferred him to a post overseeing education, science and other less sensitive matters in violation of a rule requiring him to first notify the Ministry of Public Security in Beijing.
Fearing for his safety, Wang entered the U.S. Consulate in the nearby city of Chengdu on Feb. 6 and submitted a written request for asylum, according to the remarks. Wang left of his own accord one day later and was flown to Beijing for questioning by the Ministry of State Security. He has not been heard from since.
Chinese officials have slammed the consulate visit as a serious breach of protocol. U.S. diplomats have refused to discuss what took place during Wang’s visit.
Government and party spokesmen in Beijing and Chongqing did not immediately respond to faxed requests to verify the authenticity of the leaked transcript.
In a sign of the sensitivity of the matter, search requests for Bo Xilai and Wang Lijun were blocked on the Internet inside China, which is strictly monitored by government censors. In some cases, people have gotten around the blocks and posted the reports on social media sites.
Bo, 62, had been considered a leading candidate for the party’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee when new members are chosen this fall.
A former commerce minister and head of industrial Liaoning province, Bo remains on the party’s 25-member Politburo and his ultimate fate remains unknown. While the transcript did not indicate he was charged with any crimes, it said that, as Chongqing’s top official, Bo had “main leadership responsibility” for the Wang affair.
“Once this issue has been thoroughly and clearly investigated, there will again be a final conclusion and the taking of appropriate action,” it said.
Most Chinese officials or their family are believed engaged in some form of corruption or abuse of their positions, and its unlikely that Bo would have been harmed by interfering in the investigation if Wang had not visited the U.S. consulate.
Although the somewhat flamboyant Bo claimed as recently as last week to have “no assets,” his flamboyant personality and the much-discussed exploits of his son at Oxford and Harvard have made him a frequent target of such accusations.
Throughout his career, Bo showed a flair for publicity, and alongside his well-publicized clampdown on gangsters, won countrywide notoriety for enthusiastically promoting the revival of Cultural Revolution era songs and stories. That made him a darling of the country’s remaining Maoists but also drew criticism for glorifying the memory of one of the most violent and chaotic periods in modern Chinese history.
Chongqing is already moving on from the Bo era, with city workers called to weekend rallies to pledge support for new party secretary Zhang Dejiang and bureaucrats told to strictly adhere to Beijing’s orders.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.