Chongqing party boss defends his crackdown

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 October, 2009, 12:00am

Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai said the government was forced to stage a massive crackdown on gangsters as a response to public pressure.

'We did not take the initiative to stage the crackdown,' Bo said before the annual conference of the Chinese Language Press Institute in the municipality on Friday. 'Rather, the criminal organisations forced us to do so. We have no other options.'

It was the first time Bo, known for his media savvy, has publicly commented on why he decided to stage the crackdown that has brought down numerous officials, including Wen Qiang, former head of the judicial administrative bureau.

'The public gathered outside the government office and held up pictures of bloodshed,' he said.

'These pictures made people nervous. The gangsters slashed people with knives just like butchers killing animals. It was an unbearable sight. The knives piled up like a mountain during the seizures last year, and they were not the usual daggers but long knives.'

He said the government had received many complaints about gangster activities, and 80 per cent were from people who gave their real names.

The trials of hundreds of defendants started this month. Since June, more than 2,000 people have been detained in Chongqing, including: 67 gang bosses; three billionaires; 50 officials; Wen, who was former director of the municipality's justice bureau and former deputy police chief; former deputy police head Peng Changjian; and more than 200 police officers.

In discussing Wen's sister-in-law, alleged gangster kingpin Xie Caiping, Bo compared himself with Lin Zexu, who clamped down on the rampant opium trade during the Qing dynasty.

'Xie Caiping opened casinos in five-star hotels and took a cut of gambling winnings,' he said. 'Her profit was guaranteed under all circumstances. Even the Daoguang emperor and Lin Zexu could not tolerate it.'

Mainland media have followed Xie's case closely due to her apparent appetite for handsome young men. Xie, 46, was reported to have employed as many as 16 lovers.

Bo's first extensive comments on the campaign came as some overseas media organisations speculated that the crackdown was aimed at currying political favour for Bo and embarrassing former Chongqing party boss Wang Yang, now Guangdong party secretary.

Wang, like Bo, is a rising political star and a strong candidate for senior State Council positions.

Bo said the protection given by senior officials was to blame for unrestrained gangster activities.

'Why did all the gangster bosses become so unscrupulous? It was because they were under the protection of officials from above.'

Wang was Chongqing party secretary from 2005 to 2007 when Wen and Peng were top police officials. Shortly after Bo became party boss, he called in Wang Lijun, police chief of Jinzhou, Liaoning province, to take charge of the crackdown. Bo was governor of Liaoning from 2000 to 2004.

Guangzhou Daily quoted a source close to Wang Lijun, now Chongqing police chief, as saying the next stage of the crackdown would focus on cleaning up the police force.

The report quoted an anonymous source as saying that corruption in the force was worse than Chongqing's gangster problem and corrupt officers had been identified.

Li Qiang, one of the detained billionaires and a delegate to the municipal people's congress, is to appear in court tomorrow. The cases of Wen, Peng and other senior officials would be held in other cites to prevent conflicts of interest, local media reports said.