Bo Xilai

Chongqing people doubt charges of abuse, graft

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 August, 2013, 8:29am

Despite efforts by prosecutors in Jinan to cast Bo Xilai as abusive and corrupt, the trial appears to have only increased his already substantial popularity in Chongqing, where he reigned supreme for five years.

Many of the southwestern municipality's 29 million residents have been glued to their computers, tablets and smartphones for the past three days, intently following evidence presented in the Shandong provincial capital, some 1,200 kilometres to the northeast.

Some are saddened to see the once high-flying politician, who is still remembered fondly for his efforts to crack down on crime and improve the economy, accused of crimes that could lead to a heavy penalty.

Many, such as Yang Jian, a retiree in her 50s, remained unconvinced by the evidence presented in court and have been inspired by Bo's spirited defence.

Yang said nothing she had seen during her frequent checks of the online trial feed had reduced her fondness for Bo and what he did for the city during his tenure as party secretary from 2007 to last year.

"I just don't believe someone with passion for the poor could be as corrupted and misbehaving as the court says."

Yang noted that her family personally benefited from Bo's push for affordable housing when they received a public rental home in 2011. "So no matter what they said about him, I know how I feel about him from the bottom of my heart."

Chongqing middle-school teacher Chen Chuqin said that during the former Politburo member's performance in court, he saw flashes of the style that made Bo such an effective leader. "As to the charge of abuse of power, who else in the bureaucracy dares to say they haven't done [this] or are no worse?"

Some in Chongqing argue that Bo's greatest sin was appearing to campaign openly for a seat on the Politburo's supreme Standing Committee - a view held by many independent experts on Chinese politics.

"I suppose [Bo's] only crime was being so ambitious and capable in what he did, which might put to shame those uncharismatic and mediocre competitors," Chen said.

Bo supporters say they sometimes break into tears when they think about the changes Bo brought to everyday life in Chongqing. For instance, they say officials and police officers became more responsive during Bo's tenure.

Zhou Mingyi, 51, a gardener who resettled in Chongqing a year ago, speculated that Bo's abrasive work style may have made enemies and contributed to his downfall.

Zhou said he was a fan of Bo's "red songs" campaign, in which he promoted the singing of old party anthems, and was angry that it had been misrepresented as a leftist movement by some of the country's elites.

"I don't think people from my generation want the Cultural Revolution to come back. But we love to sing red songs because they are part of what we were and they brought back some of the fond memories."

Cheng Bo , 33, a civil engineer, said few could ignore how highly Bo is regarded among the Chongqing masses. But Cheng said most of his generation were apathetic about such political scandals because they have no way of knowing the truth or having their voices heard.

"The Communist Party needs to take a good look at itself," Cheng said.