Bo Xilai charges called a victory against overly powerful 'tiger'
As the widely anticipated news of former Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai's indictment emerged on Thursday, Chinese state media have rushed to mend ties with his Chongqing supporters.
Bo - whose charges include accepting bribes of 20 million yuan (HK$25.1 million) and embezzling 5 million yuan - continues to this day to enjoy popularity in his stronghold Chongqing, a city of 29 million people, where many say he fought organised crime and invested in housing and urban renewal.
"The party's central leadership has separated Bo Xilai's personal issues from the development of the whole of Chongqing," an article by the People's Daily Online said on Thursday. "It does not deny Chongqing's successes in its economic and social development and affirmed the contributions by Chongqing officials."
The article was published three minutes before Xinhua released the news of Bo's indictment on charges of bribery, corruption and abuse of power in Jinan, the capital of Shandong province.
The central leadership "has high hopes for party and state officials at all levels, and has [feelings of] inspiration and trust towards the Chongqing leadership at all levels, the party and state officials and the masses", the People's Daily wrote.
A comment piece by Xinhua state news agency was more straightforward in its explanation why the son of the early Communist Party hero Bo Yibo had to fall from grace: a local "tiger" had become too powerful.
"China's historical experience has shown over and over again that the nation's long-term stability can only be secured by protecting the authority of the central leadership," the article reads.
Beijing realised that local government's autonomy had its advantages, but "in regards to the overall policy and the appointment of senior officials, the local governments have to safeguard the central leadership's authority".
It reaffirmed Beijing's opposition to Bo Xilai's "red" Maoist revival campaign, in which he heavily promoted the legacy of the party's long-time leader with mass events in the city.
"Mistakes are mistakes," it read. "Today's leaders and the people should have a clear understanding of that."
China's leading state-run news agency published its take on Bo's fall some 15 minutes after spreading the news of his indictment.
Fifteen minutes after the release of the indictment, China's outspoken Global Times also waded in, arguing that corrupt officials like Bo were a cancer in China's political system and the legal process was the best way to deal with these issues.
For Kerry Brown, director of the China Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, the editorials show that Bo's real crime was to become too powerful.
"There is this major theme of how unity between the centre [central leadership] and the provinces is sacroscant, that provinces like Chongqing cannot become personal fiefdoms," he wrote in an e-mailed comment.
"That, not his corruption was the real crime."