Saturday, September 29, 2012

Unanswered questions regarding the Bo Xilai affair

As I have indicated earlier, the whole of the Bo Xilai affair bodes ill for the future of China.

It shows that, in spite of all the material progress that has taken place, China has made zero progress culturally, because its way of running the country is essentially still the same as during the time of Lin Biao.  There is rumour, there is innuendo, there are machinations and plots, there is murder or imprisonment on some grounds or other, which may be manufactured, imagined or real.  And the massive Chinese political machine marches on, now under the control of one clique and now under the control of another clique.

Here are some unanswered questions regarding the Bo Xilai affair:

1.  In a country where the secret police is evidently numerous, active and efficient, is it possible that they and their masters were unaware of "grave violations of party discipline" on the part of someone as prominent as Bo Xilai?  After all, the man ran, in turn, the not unimportant city of Dalian (the location chosen by the Chinese authorities for the World Economic Forum's "Annual Meeting of the New Champions" ), the whole of Liaoning province in northeast China, and indeed the entire Chinese Ministry of Commerce. If he did in fact commit grave crimes and misdemeanours, who were the people who protected him for all these decades?  If Bo has now ceased being protected, have his protectors escaped?  If not, who are they and what has happened to them?

2.  If Bo did not commit the crimes and misdemeanours of which he is charged, who has manufactured the "evidence" which will be released?  Presumably those who have won the power struggle within the Politburo?  So: Xi Jinping and his allies?

3.  What are the crimes and misdemenours of which Bo is accused?  Though the system reserves to itself the right of changing the charges, it is principally that he asked Police Chief Wang Lijun to suppress evidence relating to the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, apparently by Bo's wife who is usually referred to as Gu Kailai but whose official name is Bogu Kailai.  The official story is that, in the latter half of 2011, Bogu Kailai and her son had conflicts with Heywood over business matters, that Heywood threatened her son in e-mails, which made Bogu Kailai fear for her son's personal safety, and decide to murder Heywood. The question that arises is:  could the wife and son of one of the top Chinese officials not have handled threats from a British businessman by referring the matter to the Chinese police, rather than by murdering him?  Of course, the answer must be "No" if Bogu Kailai and her son had something they did not wish to be discovered by the Chinese authorities.  If so, what was it that they were really involved in?  How come no one is investigating that and "only" talking about the murder of Heywood?

4.  Bogu Kailai has been awarded "a suspended death sentence", which means that she will be executed if found guilty of having intentionally commited further crimes during the two years following the sentence (as this case demonstrates, the definition of a "crime" is rather fluid in China).  Supposing that the system finds it convenient not to charge her of any further crimes, her sentence will be automatically reduced to life imprisonment.  Indeed, if the system finds her to have behaved well during the two years, the life sentence can be reduced to imprisonment for a fixed term.  In other words, Bogu will be hauled before the courts again after two years and the system will then take a view of her behaviour during these two years, and decide the number of years, months, weeks, or days she will continue in prison.  It is not clear what sort of prison she is or will be in. We all know that prisons can be horrible, but some prisons can presumably be like 5-star hotel rooms.  Has justice been done?  Has it been seen to be done?

5. Wang Lijun, former vice mayor and police chief of southwest China's Chongqing municipality, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for bending the law for selfish ends, defection, abuse of power and bribe-taking. The official story is that Bogu Kailai had confessed to him that she had poisoned Heywood, but he not only concealed the fact as well as the recording of her confession, but also gave Bogu Kailai a video recording that showed her at the crime scene on the night of Heywood's death. If so, how did these facts become evident?  The only possibility is that Bogu turned on him.  Why would she do so when doing that was tantamount to signing her own death sentence?  

The official story goes on to say that Wang then appointed Guo Weiguo, at that time deputy chief of the bureau and a close friend of both Wang and Bogu Kailai, to take charge of the case. Guo conveniently found that Heywood had died from drinking too much. However, after Wang had unspecified conflicts with Bogu Kailai, Wang told personnel at the Chongqing Public Security Bureau to re-investigate the case, and provided them with the recording of Bogu Kailai admitting the murder of Heywood. On February 7, 2012, Wang offered the case files to the authorities. If that is in fact what happened, Wang is clearly less intelligent than the head of security needs to be: did he not realise that by turning Bogu in, he would make an enemy of everyone connected with her?  

The official story continues that in early February 2012, Wang felt in danger when he was in effect demoted and his close aides were interrogated. This is curious: so the system punished him (slightly) rather than rewarding him (even slightly) for bringing a crime to light?

In any case, the official story continues that, because of his insecurity, Wang fled to the US Consulate General in Chengdu on February 6 and asked the US side for political asylum. This is curious.  Why would an intelligent man like Wang go to the US Consulate in Chengdu and not in Beijing or in Shanghai, from where it would have been easier for the US authorities to smuggle him out of the country.

Presumably, the US authorities decided for their own reasons not to grant him asylum.  Why?  How come such an important "catch" was turned down by the US, which might have given the US access to at least some of the inner workings of the Chinese system?  Was there a deal between the US and Chinese authorities? 

From the Chinese point of view, Wang had defected, or attempted to defect, and was therefore liable for the severest penalty.  However, the official story is that Wang was persuaded by the Chinese to leave the US Embassy on February 7.  Now if you were Wang, would you have allowed yourself to be persuaded to leave the US Embassy, if you did not have cast iron guarantees of safe conduct?  What were the arguments and inducements used by the Chinese side?  What happened to whatever assurances were given to Wang?  Is the sentence part of the "deal"?

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