Chongqing, the former red bastion of disgraced Politburo member Bo Xilai, is undergoing a clean sweep.
All eyes are on the new Party chief Sun Zhengcai who has started dealing with the mess left by his predecessor, who ran a campaign of neo-Maoist sloganeering and public song, while mercilessly punishing those accused of being part of the “mafia” (there were no formal criteria) while stripping their assets.
Sun, 49, is a newly appointed member of the Politburo who was formerly the agriculture minister and Party Secretary of Jilin province. Hong Kong’s Ming Pao said he is favored by outgoing premier Wen Jiabao and is Wen’s only political heir in the Politburo.
When Sun took office on Nov. 20, a lewd video of a district Party chief in Chongqing created a storm on China’s Internet and the official responsible was sacked three days later. Then, Li Zhuang, a former lawyer who was jailed in 2009 as part of Bo Xilai’s “smash the black” campaign, was summoned by China’s top prosecutor for a reexamination of his case. The frame-up against Li Zhuang was in 2009 hugely significant for the rule of law in China, showing as it did one Party official’s brazen flaunting of the court system, used to punish Li.
Chinese media also reported that Chongqing’s banking regulator will start probing into the city’s massive debts inherited from former Party chief Bo.
The Chongqing Branch of China’s Banking Regulatory Commission has recently issued a notice to all banks in the city to investigate account that pose financial risks, Caixin reported on Nov. 21. The investigation will focus on local government financial platform’s debts, repayment of matured loans, and restriction of new loans.
After Bo Xilai was ousted in March, Chinese media started to question the Chongqing model’s economic growth, and reports about the city’s ever-increasing deficits during Bo’s reign started to surface.
Chongqing Mayor Huang Qifan told China National Radio in March that all levels of government in Chongqing had a total liability of 180 billion yuan (US$29 billion) in 2011. In 2009 alone, Chongqing’s fiscal revenue was 117 billion yuan (US$19 billion) while the fiscal spending was 181 billion yuan (US$29 billion), with a budget deficit of 64 billion yuan (US$9.6 billion) and an overdraft rate of nearly 50 percent.
After Bo Xilai assumed office in Chongqing, he issued many different bonds to fund vanity projects and real estate developments. Consequently the government was in debt for 500 billion yuan (US$80 billion), according to a reporter with Xinhua, the state mouthpiece.
In fact, Zhang Dejiang, the man who took over Bo Xilai’s job after Bo was ousted in March, has already started investigating the city’s debt situation. With Sun starting a second round of investigations, it is expected that the financial black hole created by Bo will gradually be uncovered, says Duowei, a Chinese-language website outside China.
In addition, a new police chief has also arrived in Chongqing, and a low-key action to rehabilitate wrongful police cases has begun. Nearly 900 such cases have been redressed, Southern Weekend reported.
Corruption is the adhesive that unites Party members.
—Chen Pokong, a political commentator
The changes however don’t mean that the Party respects the rule of law, political commentator Lan Shu told NTD. It just reflects the result of a power struggle after Bo Xilai was defeated by his opponents.
“Corruption is the adhesive that unites Party members,” Chen Pokong, another political commentator, wrote in a recent article. “Most officials are corrupt and therefore in the same boat. Punishing a few corrupt officials harshly and swiftly is just the new leadership displaying their authority,” Chen said.
Whatever the Party’s new leadership does won’t change China’s judicial system, since the Party itself is the root of judicial injustice according to Lin Zixu, a political commentator with Sound of Hope Radio.
Chinese lawyer Peng Yongfeng is also not optimistic about the new leadership’s anti-corruption measures. He pointed out that many Chinese lawyers are still wrongfully incarcerated. “Lawyers like Gao Zhisheng and many human rights activists deserve rehabilitation even more,” Peng told Radio Free Asia.
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