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Bo Xilai scandal not a power struggle
Publication Date : 19-04-2012
After the so-called Chongqing incident, many media outlets, including The New York Times and the Financial Times, to name only a few, interviewed me. During such interviews with foreign media I found there were misunderstandings about the incident, which I think should be clarified.
The Chongqing incident refers to a series of happenings including Wang Lijun's unauthorised stay in the US consulate in Chengdu, the investigation of Bo Xilai's disciplinary violations and his wife's suspected involvement in the death of Neil Heywood, a British citizen. The key part of the incident, without doubt, is Bo's disciplinary violations, both the other incidents have arisen from his improper use of public power and resources.
As Party chief of Chongqing municipality and a leader of Wang Lijun, Bo has to take the responsibility for Wang's visit to the US consulate. As husband of a woman who is a suspect in a criminal case, Bo should be questioned as part of the investigation according to the law.
Both incidents have reflected badly on China and the Party. Therefore I think it is a wise decision for the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China to suspend Bo and investigate further. That's not only in accordance with the Party's, and the Chinese people's interests, but also with reform and development.
This demonstrates the CPC's determination to fight against corruption, something wholeheartedly supported by the people.
There are no detailed nationwide statistics, but I, like everyone, live in a connected society: I have my family, relatives, colleagues, students, teachers, and all kinds of groups to exchange opinions with, and there was almost universal support among them for investigating Bo.
Some netisens have questioned the CPC's intention in investigating Bo, but they belong to the absolute minority and everyone has the freedom to express his or her opinions in China.
During my interviews with foreign media, I found that many reporters were interpreting what happened in Chongqing as a power struggle. That is a misreading of the situation. Maybe there is struggle between the mainstream society and corruption, but that's nothing to do with power - don't forget that Bo's wife Gu is facing a criminal charge.
One reporter asked, whether Bo's wife would have been investigated if Wang Lijun had not stayed in the US consulate. While China cannot guarantee that every criminal case will be solved - no country in the world can - once the police were informed they responded quickly and efficiently, proving everybody is equal before the law, whatever his or her position.
The reason why the reporter, like many of his colleagues, described the Chongqing incident as a power struggle, is because the lives of these Western journalists are far removed from those of the Chinese people. As journalists they are seeking a dramatic story, when they look at the Chongqing incident they tend to view it as a climax to a movie. This view is not shared by residents who are participants in social affairs.
In some sense, the Chongqing incident has taught us a lesson, that China must further propel reform, especially in political terms, in order to prevent anything similar from happening again.
The reforms should include at least the following: introducing a market-like mechanism into political resources, and holding competitive elections for deputies to the local people's congresses and for leaders at various local departments and levels; consolidating an independent and trustworthy judicial system; taking more effective anti-corruption measures; preventing the wealth gap from further widening and establishing a wide-covering social safety net.
The ongoing investigation of Bo's case has shown the CPC's determination to implement the rule of law, and push forward reform. So we are confident that the Chongqing incident will be recorded as a milestone in China's political progress.
The author is a professor of law from East China University of Political Science and Law.