Bo Xilai, the Communist Party secretary of China’s Chongqing municipality, said he is not under investigation as the government probes his former police chief, who spent a night in a U.S. consulate last month.
Bo, 62, took reporters’ questions in Beijing today after he was absent from a session of the National People’s Congress yesterday, calling into question his political future amid an investigation into Chongqing Vice Mayor Wang Lijun, whose stay at the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu sparked speculation that he was seeking asylum. Bo said he was ill and apologized for drawing attention to himself.
“I feel like it came out of nowhere,” Bo said of Wang’s consulate visit. “It looks like that in any place, no matter how good the situation is, we have to be alert and be prepared to prevent unexpected things from happening.”
The intrigue at the highest levels of China’s government -- Bo is a member of China’s ruling Politburo -- comes as the Communist Party holds a once-every-five-years meeting later this year that will pick the leadership to rule the country for the next decade, a period which PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP says China will surpass the U.S. to become the world’s biggest economy.
Bo was named by analysts including Li Cheng of Washington’s Brookings Institution as being a candidate for the next Politburo Standing Committee, now with nine men, that exercises supreme power in China.
Bo, laughing as he spoke to reporters in the Chongqing room of the Great Hall of the People, said the results of the probe into Wang will be released and that Chongqing was cooperating in the investigation. He said the situation relates to the fight against organized crime that Wang helmed and that earned Bo a reputation as a fighter against corruption.
After attending a speech in the main auditorium this afternoon, Bo remained as most of the top leaders left to shake hands with delegates of the National People’s Congress. He and General Xu Caihou, one of two military leaders on the Politburo, worked the dais together, greeting other leaders.
Wang’s visit to the consulate from Feb. 6-7 was confirmed by Chinese and U.S. officials. An investigation may hurt Bo’s chances for a spot on the Politburo Standing Committee, ahead of a leadership change at the Communist Party’s congress later this year, said Willy Wo-Lap Lam, an adjunct professor of Chinese history at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
‘Chances are Gone’
“His chances for the PBSC at the 18th Congress are gone,” Lam said in an e-mail.
Bo said he’s “not thinking about the 18th Party Congress.” He said stories that he had offered to resign his post were speculation.
Wang led Bo’s effort to crack down on organized crime in Chongqing, a South Carolina-sized municipality with a population of about 30 million people. Today, Bo said that “fighting organized crime is an effort that will upset some people.”
Bo said Wang’s was an isolated case and it shouldn’t be blown out of proportion.
On Feb. 2, the Chongqing government said Wang had been relieved of his police duties and put in charge of areas including sanitation, athletics and education. On Feb. 8 the Chongqing government’s information office said he had gone on “vacation-style treatment” after suffering mental stress and physical discomfort.
Bloomberg News reported last month that a first-class seat was purchased for Wang on a flight from Chengdu to Beijing on Feb. 8. Another first-class ticket on that flight was bought for Qiu Jin, a vice minister at the agency responsible for anti- espionage and covert operations.
Chongqing Mayor Huang Qifan, also at today’s meeting, said he met Wang for two hours in Chengdu and after that Wang agreed to come out of the consulate.
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