In China’s Crime Crackdown, Claims of Abuse : NPR
The swift downfall of ambitious Chinese politician Bo Xilai exposed a bitter power struggle in the highest echelons of government. Now his victims are telling their stories, exposing a darker side to Bo’s signature clampdown on organized crime.
Charismatic and outspoken, Bo seemed headed for the country’s top leadership body, the Politburo Standing Committee, before he was removed abruptly from his post — as party secretary of the major southern city of Chongqing — earlier this month.
It was about the same time, three weeks ago, that Zhang Mingyu was kidnapped. The businessman was in his Beijing apartment when police officers arrived from Chongqing — 910 miles southwest from the Chinese capital.
“They didn’t let me contact my lawyer or use my cell phone,” Zhang says. “They didn’t want to take a plane or a train, in case someone saw us and posted it online. So we drove 23 hours to Chongqing. More than 10 people watched me day and night.”
Zhang, who is also a deputy to the Chongqing Municipal People’s Congress, had been threatening to expose information about Bo’s former right-hand man and head of the city’s police force, Wang Lijun. His nighttime flight to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, some 170 miles from Chongqing, marked the beginning of Bo’s downfall back in February.
Someone wanted to keep Zhang Mingyu quiet. For a week, he was held incommunicado in Chongqing. It was a day after he was released that Bo, the Chongqing party secretary, was sacked.
‘Heavy Fist’ Of Crackdown
Zhang is scathing about Bo’s much-vaunted campaign against organized crime.
“The mafia crackdown was definitely selective,” he says. “It was done to maintain the authority of the people who cracked down on the gangsters.”
The campaign against organized crime — known as “smashing the black” — was one of Bo Xilai’s favored initiatives. The other was “singing the red,” or mobilizing the masses to sing patriotic songs, in a throwback to the Cultural Revolution era.
One patriotic song devoted to the campaign against organized crime sums up its spirit with the lyrics, “Smash the black with a heavy fist, eliminate evil and keep the peace.”
Certainly the “heavy fist” was clear during the mafia crackdown, which began in June 2009. Thirteen people were executed, 4,781 were arrested in just 10 months. But some observers say that suspects’ rights were often completely ignored.
“The anti-mafia campaign in Chongqing wasn’t based on the rule of law,” says lawyer Li Zhuang, who represented an alleged gang member. “It was an anti-mafia campaign for political purposes. It overrode the law, it ignored basic legal procedure and it even violated basic human morality.”