By Philip Wen, Sydney Morning Herald
March 15, 2012
Controversial Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai has been removed from his post, bringing China’s sensational political scandal to a head and leaving his once sky-high political ambitions hanging by a thread.
A short statement released by the state-run Xinhua news agency said Zhang Dejiang will take over as Chongqing party chief while serving concurrently as vice-premier. There were no further details, and the statement did not say if Mr Bo had been assigned another role, or if he was under investigation.
Mr Bo, the charismatic figurehead of China’s broad “red” revival movement, has become the most senior victim of overt power struggle since Chen Liangyu six years ago. The former Shanghai party chief was toppled in 2006 and later sentenced to 18 years in jail for corruption.
Having developed a fearsome reputation as a mafia-busting enforcer and winning strong support from some sections of the Communist Party for his ambitious plans to spread Communist “red” nostalgia throughout the nation, Mr Bo had appeared to be in line for promotion to the ruling Communist Party’s all-powerful inner circle, the Politburo standing committee.
Until last month, that is. In a dramatic betrayal, his former police chief and right-hand man, Wang Lijun, fled from Mr Bo in an apparent attempt to save his own life.
Mr Wang drove for four hours to seek refuge in the nearest US consulate, in Chengdu, reportedly armed with incriminating evidence against Mr Bo.
The scandal has been played out under the glare of China’s annual meeting of parliament, the National People’s Congress, which concluded yesterday.
Mr Bo’s removal comes a day after some fighting words by Premier Wen Jiabao in his closing news conference after the National People’s Congress, his final one after serving nine years as premier.
“I can tell everyone that the central government has attached great importance (to the Wang Lijun incident), and immediately instructed the relevant departments to carry out a special investigation,” Mr Wen said. “Currently, the investigation has made progress. We will handle this issue in strict accordance with the law on the basis of facts and using the law as a criterion.”
Mr Wen also aimed a thinly-veiled swipe at Mr Bo and his so-called Chongqing model.
“The present Chongqing municipal Party committee and the municipal government must reflect seriously and learn from the Wang Lijun incident,” he said.
“What has happened shows that any practice that we take must be based on the experience and lessons we’ve gained from history and it must serve the people’s interests.”
Speaking to reporters last week, Mr Bo denied he was under investigation but refused to comment further on his future.
But he admitted he had made an error of judgment in promoting his former police chief, Wang Lijun.
“This was a case of negligent supervision on my part,” he said