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The New York Times: China Detains Allies of Ousted Official

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The New York Times   By EDWARD WONG   Published: April 19, 2012

BEIJING — Officials in critical Communist Party and government posts in Chongqing who are considered loyalists of Bo Xilai, the city’s deposed party chief, are being detained as part of the wide-ranging investigation into Mr. Bo and his family, according to a Chongqing official and other people with knowledge of political appointments in the city.

The detentions are part of an attempt by the central Communist Party to dismantle Mr. Bo’s support network and build a case against him and his wife, Gu Kailai, who is under investigation for the murder of a British businessman, Neil Heywood. Mr. Bo is being investigated for “serious disciplinary violations.”

The detentions and, in some cases, replacements of Mr. Bo’s allies began soon after party leaders ousted him on March 15 as the Chongqing party chief, said people in Chongqing and Beijing, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the situation. Some analysts say the purging of Mr. Bo has presented the party’s top echelon with its biggest challenge since the Tiananmen Square protests and massacre in 1989.

The downfall of Mr. Bo, who comes from a prominent revolutionary family but acquired many enemies in his political career, began when his former police chief in Chongqing, Wang Lijun, showed up at the United States Consulate in Chengdu on Feb. 6 with what he said was evidence tying Mr. Bo’s family to Mr. Heywood’s mysterious death in Chongqing last November.

The scandal has occurred just months before party leaders are expected to announce a new lineup for the top ruling clique, the Standing Committee of the Politburo. Mr. Bo was jockeying for one of the seats.

The detentions in Chongqing have generally not been reported in the official news media. Among the Communist officials detained after Mr. Bo was removed from his post was Wu Wenkang, the deputy secretary general of the municipal party branch, who was considered one of a handful of people in the Bo family’s inner circle, according to businesspeople in Chongqing.

Jiang Weiping, a Chinese journalist living in Canada who came into conflict with Mr. Bo after writing about him, said Mr. Wu had been close to Mr. Bo since Mr. Bo’s tenure as mayor of Dalian, a coastal city in the northeastern province of Liaoning. Mr. Wu moved to Chongqing after Mr. Bo became party secretary there in 2007.

Guo Weiguo, a Chongqing police official who was also close to Mr. Bo in Liaoning Province, was recently detained as well. Senior party officials have appointed He Ting, a former vice governor of Qinghai Province, to Mr. Wang’s old job as police chief. Mr. He previously served as chief of the Ministry of Public Security’s criminal investigation department. And Chen Cungen, the head of the municipal party committee’s powerful organization department, was replaced in late March by Xu Songnan, who held the same job in the Ningxia region.

One Chongqing official said Xia Zeliang, the party chief of Chongqing’s Nan’an district, had also been detained. Mr. Heywood’s body was found in a hotel in the Nan’an district, and it was cremated before an autopsy was performed. The British government said it asked Chinese officials in mid-February to open an inquiry into the Mr. Heywood’s death after American officials had informed them of the accusations by Mr. Wang, the former police chief.

Some people close to Mr. Bo appear to have avoided severe repercussions for now, including the district party chief Xu Ming, a close adviser of Mr. Bo’s whose fate was in question late last month, said businesspeople in Chongqing. A local news Web site, Hualong, noted that Mr. Xu made an appearance on April 10 at a meeting of district party officials where he pledged to support the decisions about Mr. Bo. The same day, the party announced that Mr. Bo had been suspended from his post in the 25-member Politburo and from the larger Central Committee, and that Ms. Gu was being investigated in Mr. Heywood’s murder.

Chongqing news organizations have reported in recent days that Mr. Xu has been appearing at events, signaling that he still has his job and is not under detention. Mr. Xu was a main architect of the famous “red song” campaign that Mr. Bo started in 2008, in which the Chongqing government urged schools, workers and neighborhood groups to organize singalongs of Maoist classics.

Another important associate of Mr. Bo’s whose English name is also spelled as Xu Ming (the Chinese name has different words) has vanished and is presumed to be under investigation. This Mr. Xu, 41, is the billionaire founder and chairman of the Dalian Shide Group, a conglomerate with vast holdings.

The detention and replacement of officials in Chongqing have taken place under the watch of Zhang Dejiang, a vice premier who was dispatched from Beijing to serve as party chief in Chongqing after Mr. Bo’s ouster. Cheng Li, an expert in Chinese politics at the Brookings Institution, said in an interview with the National Bureau of Asian Research on Wednesday that it was important to note that Mr. Zhang is an ally of Jiang Zemin, the former top leader of China. Mr. Bo was also considered, in a broad sense, to be an ally of Mr. Jiang’s. Mr. Li said the fact that party leaders agreed that one of Mr. Jiang’s men should replace Mr. Bo shows that there is no significant split on the issue between the Jiang faction and that led by Hu Jintao, the Chinese president and party chief.

“This appointment means that a deal has been made and the top leadership of the party is united,” Mr. Li said.

Sharon LaFraniere contributed reporting from Chongqing, and Jonathan Ansfield from Beijing. Mia Li contributed research from Chongqing, and Edy Yin from Beijing.

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