as chongqing turns: the trial of bo xilai (abridged)

Bo Xilai. Gu Kailai. Wang Lijun. These are the main characters in China’s ongoing soap opera As Chongqing Turns or “The Bo Drama (薄剧)” as it is known in Mandarin. Bo Xilai, of course is the disgraced former Party Secretary of Chongqing. Gu Kailai is his lawyer possibly crazy wife, who confessed to killing businessman, Niel Heywood and is now in prison after her death sentence was suspended. Wang Lijun was his head of security, who was in charge of Chongqing’s anti-mafia campaign and convicted of all sorts of corruption charges.

The main event trial of Bo ended yesterday. The best part? Bo Xilai was his own lawyer and so interjected throughout the prosecution’s presentation of its case. Below, a translation of the Abridged Bo Trial (审薄精简版) and yes, although fictionalized, the account rings so true. Also, I’ve tried to find online links to the Chinese text, but they seem to have been blocked:

Day 1
Prosecution: Your wife accepted money.
Defendant grunts.
Prosecution: The person who gave the money is known to you.
Defendant: Known but not really close.
Prosecution: Did you give favors to this person?
Defendant: Business is business (公事公办 literally: business done according to business principles).
Prosecution: Did you know your wife and son took people’s money?
Defendant: No.
Prosecution: She never mentioned it?
Defendant: People with taste like ours would get together and talk about money?
Prosecution: Xu Ming, Did you give the Party Secretary’s wife and son money?
Xu Ming: Yes.
Prosecution: Did he know?
Xu Ming: No.
Defendant (interrupts and says to prosecution): What did I tell you?
Prosecution: You mother-fu… Court recess!

Day 2
Prosecution: This is the evidence… (closing testimony of 10,000 characters).
Defendant: Have you closed your arguments?
Prosecution: Yes.
Defendant: Where’s the evidence?
Prosecution: Mother fucker, this isn’t evidence?!
Defendant: This is just testimony. This is what they said. Is there actual proof that I knew about the villa in France? That my son was playing around?
Prosecution: … Legal testimony that has been confirmed and supported!!! This is not enough?
Defendant: Is it? Enough? (Defendant laughs).

Day 3, morning
Prosecution to Wang: Wang, you tell us. Did he incite you to give money to his wife.
Wang: It seems that maybe…yes!
Defendant: Did I ever call my wife while you were there?
Prosecution: Yes.
Defendant: Did I ever try to find out if anyone else knew?
Wang: No.
Defendant: Mother fucker, am I a stupid cunt? Would I really not know who knew I was on the take? Who are you? Are we so intimate that I would call my wife while you were there and tell her to take a bribe?
Prosecution: If you hadn’t told your wife to take the money, how did it end up in her account? You definitely told her to do so! You said so!
Defendant: You think this investor is so poor? That the investor’s wife isn’t talented and rich? That we actually need your 5 million?
Prosecution: You definitely took bribes!
Judge: Prosecution, please remember your role…

Judge: Please continue.
Prosecution: Your wife already testified that you knew. And now you’re denying it!
Defendant: My wife… (sighs) I’ll admit to you all that… well, I stepped out of line once, so you understand that my wife took our son and went to England. what happened after that, how could I know? What’s more, my wife committed murder, if she had economic troubles, of course she’d be up shit creek. So her saying that I incited corruption is a normal response (很正常). We still care about each other and I don’t blame her for any of this…
Prosecution: What the fuck does that mean? Earlier you testified that your wife was mentally unstable. Now this?!
Defendant: I don’t mean anything by it. I’m just speaking the truth for the judge’s consideration.
Judge: (speechless)

Day 3, afternoon
Prosecution: We call General Wang Lijun.
Prosecution: General Wang, what do you have to say?
General Wang: I have so much to say! How could I not? How many years were we sworn buddies? I protected his son when he went abroad. When his wife committed murder, I was the first to tell him. I gave my life and bled for him. Him. Him. Him. And then he actually hit me on behalf of his wife! He slugged me! I bled! I’m broken hearted!
Prosecution: See! Do you see?
Defendant: You’re talking out your ass. Mother fucker, I thought you were a bosom buddy, and if my wife wanted to kill someone, you should have either stopped her or helped her. But you did nothing and let her royally fuck up. And then, you let the investigation go forward, only telling me two weeks later, “I’m a Police Chief and I have to investigate crime, your wife murdered someone. Leader, you must face reality… Sheesh… You tell me, do you deserve a beating or not?!
General Wang: I took responsibility for you!
Defendant: Your character is questionable. You’re two-faced! You directed your subordinates to go after her and then you come to me and pretend to be a loyal official!
General Wang: You! (10,000 characters deleted).
Defendant: I have nothing more to say to you. Judge, I have only one statement, everything he said is bullshit. I hit him and he hates me, so then he muddies the water. You do what you have to.
Judge: Court recessed.

More Princeling drama: Guagua returns and possible public appearance by Bo Xilai

Yesterday, Epoch times reported that the FBI repatriated Bo Xilai and Gu Kailai’s son, Bo Guagua. Why should we care?

Before the 18th National People’s Congress opened, the Party had stripped Bo Xilai of his Party standing and his post, which is called “double removal (薄熙来双开)” and sentenced Gu Kailai to death, with a two-year probationary period. So one would think that the Congress would open and the folks at the top would get on with sentencing Bo Xilai and making official appointments. However, the 18th NPC has opened and we still don’t know what exactly is happening.

We can speculate, however, that with the repatriation of Guagua, apparently the United States has decided to help Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping do whatever it is they’re doing behind closed doors. It may be that Gu Kailai was actually poisoned, and Guagua needs to give evidence. It may also be that he knows something about his parents’ affairs. More importantly, whatever the legal reasons for dragging Guagau back home, the fact of his return seems to indicate that Hu Jintao and / or Xi Jinping have decided to break with Deng Xiaoping’s famous decision to spare Zhao Ziyang’s children from prosecution in the post Tian’anmen era.

Common wisdom holds that given the decision to deploy the military to squash the protests in 1989, Deng Xiaoping had no other option than placing Zhao Ziyang under house arrest. Nevertheless, he expressed his solidarity with his former protege by announcing that investigations into Tian’anmen would not include the children of prominent leaders. In fact, in the post-1989 era, Zhao Ziyang’s daughter, Wang Yannan (王雁南) has been active campaigning for the rehabilitation of her father and other leaders.

Deng Xiaoping’s decision to spare Zhao Ziyang’s four sons, let alone his wife and her family reflected a modern understanding of the family. Traditionally, when high-ranking officials were sentenced, the victims included “executing the nine branches of a lineage (灭门九族)”. Chinese kinship traditionally reckons lineage through the father-son relationship (agnatic descent-家族), but also distinguishes branches within the lineage through mother-daughter-and sister marriages (嫁). The nine kinship branches (九族) are:

  1. Father’s family, four kinship branches — self (kinship branches counted from eldest and other sons), married paternal aunts and cousins, married sisters and sisters’ children, married daughters and grandchildren;
  2. Mother’s family, three kinship branches — mother’s father’s family, mother’s mother’s family, and mother’s sister’s family;
  3. Wife’s family, two kinship branches — father-in-law’s family and mother-in-law’s family.

Obviously, contemporary Princeling court dramas are different from the Confucian first, second, third, and fourth wife scenarios a la Raise the Red Lantern (movie and book). This is why Bo Xilai’s first wife, Li Danyu could gossip with New York Times reporters about Bo-Gu family intrigue, while her and Bo’s eldest son Li Wangzhi can continue cattle farming. However, more colloquially, Guagua maybe be one of the implicated (株连) simply because his father has no other weakness and has yet to admit that he was wrong. After all, Gu Kailai did confess; Bo Xilai has made no public apologies or admissions of error.

Speculation du jour, if Princelings benefit from family connections, perhaps they can also be used against each other, especially against those like Bo Xilai, who might not otherwise bend. Bo Xilai will be sentenced in Guizhou, Guiyang. So to speculate even further, weibo has it, that on Monday, Oct 15, Bo Xilai will appear publicly in Guizhou, and inquiring minds want to know: how is this appearance connected to his younger son’s return?

guagua has vanished, but his older half-brother splashes across the chinese media

At this point in As Chongqing Turns, Guagua has vanished, but intrepid journalists have reported that his famously low key older half-brother, Li Wangzhi (李望知 Brandon Li) is in business with a Japanese chain selling high quality black angus steaks. More to the gossipy point of our story, Li Wangzhi gave his investment company a snarky classical name and his mother, Bo Xilai’s first wife, Li Danyu is throwing operatic slurs!

Flashback: In the rough and tumble years of the Cultural Revolution, the Bo family was out in the political cold with the rest of the 8 elders. Nevertheless, their children were intermarrying, consolidating alliances, and falling in and out of bad romance.

In 1976, Bo Xilai married Li Danyu (李丹宇), the princess daughter of the high-ranking cadre, Li Xuefeng (李雪峰), who in 1960 became the first political commissar of the Beijing Military Region and subsequently took control of the Beijing party organization after the purge of Peng Zhen in 1966. His political star fell when he supported Chen Boda during the 1971 Lushan Conference named him a Lin Biao supporter. In 1976, when his daughter married Bo Xilai, Li Xuefeng still faced another 3 years of  internal exile in Anhui province and would not be rehabilitated until 1982.

Bo Xilai was working as a manual laborer at the Bejing Number 5 Machine Repair Factory when he and Li Danyu married and had a son, Bo Wangzhi. In 1978, the college entrance exam system was re-instated and Bo Xilai was admitted to the Law Department of Beijing University where he met Gu Kailai. Princeling preferences for marrying within red circles being what they were, there were no degrees of separation between the young lovers — Li Danyu’s older brother was married to Gu Kailai’s third older sister, making Bo Xilai and Gu Kailai in-laws by marriage.

Even as Bo Xilai and Gu Kailai’s romance escalated, Li Danyu publicly accused her husband of being Chen Shimei (陈世美), the infamous adulterer from the eponymous Beijing opera. Li Danyu also tried to have Gu Kailai convicted on the “Destroying a Military Marriage” law. Nevertheless, Bo and Gu persevered and were married in 1984, when (it is said), the scorned ex-wife’s father was instrumental in having the couple run out of Beijing to Jin County, Dalian, where Bo Xilai’s political career began a Vice Secretary. Indeed, until 2003 when Li Xuefeng died and his influence over the Beijing political apparatus finally ended, Bo Xilai was unable to find a political position in the capital.

After her divorce from Bo Xilai, Li Danyu had their son change his surname from Bo to Li. Over the years, Li Danyu made sure that everyone knew of Bo and Gu’s lack of virtue, making sure that the story followed Bo wherever he was assigned.

Flash forward: Li Wangzhi grew up, graduated from Beijing University’s School of Law in 1996 and went on for a Master’s in Finance from Columbia in 2001. On returning to Beijing, Li Wangzhi set up a company called Chong’er Investment Consulting Ltd (重耳投资咨询有限公司). Inquiring minds want to know — what’s the story?

During the Spring and Autumn period, Chong’er (重耳) was the given name of Duke Jin Wen, son of Duke Jin Xian. Duke Jin Xian’s concubine, Li Pei had a child, Chong’er’s younger half-brother, Xi Qi. In order to secure Xi Qi’s future, Li Pei hatched a plot to kill Chong’er, who fled for his life. But in a what goes around comes around moment, Li Pei and Xi Qi died in court infighting and Chong’er triumphantly returned to take power.

Today, as Guagua hides and his parents remain hidden, Li Wangzhi moves forward (under the pseudonym Li Xiaobai) with his beef export business, which supplies Japanese steak aficionados with tasty, massaged Snow Dragon black angus steaks at $US 600 a kilo from ranches in — yes, its true — Dalian (雪龙黑牛股份公司).

gu kailai: he made me do it!

As Chongqing Turns takes no prisoners, literally.

According to Mirror News (明镜新闻网), Gu Kailai claims she had nothing to do with the alleged murder of Neil Heywood. Instead, she says that Bo Xilai’s secretary acted on the former Mayor of Chongqing’s orders to kill the British businessman. Her role in all of this was simply to invite Heywood to Chongqing. Moreover, she couldn’t refuse to help Bo Xilai because he frequently beat and sexually abused her.

It seems that Hu Jintao may have successfully arranged for Chongqing’s former power couple to receive the death sentence for their role in Heywood’s death. Or at least that’s cliff-hanger du jour, not to be confused with anything like verifiable news.

Meanwhile, there are reports (here, here, and here) that two days ago several thousand took to the streets of Chongqing to protest the government by singing red, a direct challenge to Bo Xilai’s administration and a call for change a la Mao. They also sang the national anthem: “Ten thousand hearts as one, braving the enemies canons — forward march!” In response, the government ordered the police disperse the protestors using teargas yesterday.

Online, extreme left websites such as “乌有之乡”, “毛泽东旗帜网”, “民声网” and “红色中国” have been closed down, although it is still possible to find their site addresses in Baidu’s cache and the British speculate about how Heywood’s Chinese wife is “suffering“, quote unquote.

gu kailai arrested: “as chongqing turns” really is one of the best shows on the worldwide web

In today’s episode of As Chongqing Turns, Bo Xilai’s wife, Gu Kailai has been arrested for the murder of Neil Heywood, a Beijing-based British businessman.

When we last visited Chongqing, Guagua had been urging his father to truly reform Chongqing’s political-economic system instead of singing Cultural Revolution karaoke and cracking down on “black” activities. One of Bo Xilai’s patrons, Noodle Master Kang (played by Zhou Yongkang) had been fighting with Direct Line to Heaven (played by Wen Jiabao) and Tire (Hu Jintao) for control of the Center. There were rumors of bullets having been fired in Beijing, rumors which increased levels of paranoia because of the administrative separation between control of the military and control of the police. Remember, the military is controlled by, well, the military and in the hands of Tire. The police, however, report to Noodle Master Kang and although the military is larger than the police force, nevertheless the police have more ground forces than the military, who serve and protect Chinese people in the air and at sea, in addition to on land…

Flashback to November, 2011, place: a fancy Chongqing hotel room. Neil Heywood is found dead. Representatives of the Chongqing government tell Heywood’s family that he died of a heart attack. They tell the British Embassy that he died of an overdose of alcohol poisoning. Strange, someone says, I never knew him to drink…

Flashback to Wang Lijun’s mad dash to the US Consulate in Chengdu. Close up of the Chongqing police surrounding the building, demanding that the Americans release Wang Lijun. We jump to a reconstruction of what the New York Times says took place: Wang Lijun telling the Americans (large and in blue suits) all sorts of things about the inner workings of the Center. He lowers his voice and accuses Gu Kailai of poisoning Heywood and to force the Center to reopen the case. Wang Lijun begs the US officials for asylum, but it is not granted. Instead, 30 hours after he entered the Chengdu Consulate, he leaves “of his own accord”, which is what was said at the time and we now know not to be true…

Meanwhile, the Chinese internet pulses and throbs with speculation and analysis. If Gu Kailai did poison Heywood and if hubby, Bo Xilai did cover up the murder, then speculations about the absolute lack of any moral restraints in Chinese leadership seem confirmed. If, however, Wang Lijun lied and now Bo Xilai’s enemies are using the case to end his political career, then speculations about the absolute lack of any moral restraints in Chinese leadership also seem confirmed. And what is to be done when there are two separate armed forces — the military and the police –reporting to (at least two) amoral leaders engaged in a power struggle?

This episode leaves us in Shenzhen to ponder appropriate levels of paranoia. Suddenly, for example, I’m recalling that after the recent Politics and Law Committee Training (政法委书记培训) in Beijing, I’ve notice increased police presence throughout Shenzhen. What’s the reason? I’m reconsidering Bo Xilai’s earlier trip to Kunming Military museum in terms of internal divisions. As Mayor of Chongqing, Bo Xilai had police, his chief supporter, Zhou Yongkang is head of the Politics and Law Committee and  and thus can deploy police from any part of the country anywhere else. Was Bo Xilai actually cultivating military support from his father’s old friends in preparation for a worst case scenario?

And yet. I’m also thinking that the mountain is high and the emperor far away (山高皇帝远) and most of the people in the hot and heavy pursuit of Chongqing rumors tend to be either newspaper reporters, who pursue these sorts of stories for a living and friends from Beijing, who actually identify with whatever the Center is up to and spend time online tracking the rumors. Many of my southern friends don’t seem so interested, except to wonder how the political maneuvering will or will not impact manufacturing, financial services, and summer vacation plans.

That said, I may re-read my Machiavelli just to remind myself that any act by a leader should be interpreted as a power play and not within the rhetoric of serve the people. And sadly, I’m looking at you, too, American politicians who might use this fiasco to pander to anti-Chinese sentiments and American media personalities who would use anti-Chinese sentiments to increase ratings in my homeland. Unfortunately, As Chongqing Turns isn’t a telenovela. It’s what’s happening instead of necessary work to improve the lives of millions of Chinese people, which in a shared world means improving all of our lives.

Rumors, Rumors: What’s Bugging Guagua?

Two days ago, an open letter allegedly from a member of Bo Xilai’s family popped up on the internet, expressing the desire for a public hearing (“此信来自薄家亲戚, 希望公开发表”). Epoch Times – the media arm of Fa Lun Gong – broke the “story” saying that Bo’s son, Guagua may have written the letter. Maybe. Maybe not. Whatever else it may be, I believe that the letter is interesting for four reasons. First, in the absence of political opposition, satire formulates an alternative position. Second, the level of moral outrage that compelled the implied author to write seems genuine. Third, the fact that this letter is circulating as “news” reveals the extent to which the sentiments reflect popular dissatisfaction with the Center and its melodramatic backbiting political infighting Two Meetings. Fourth and relevant to Shenzhen, is the call that Chongqing might have been a Special Zone, like Yan’an and implicitly not like Shenzhen.

Translation of the Guagua letter below.


In my last open letter to my father, I urged him to return the Chongqing Sing Red, Attack the Black back to the Yan’an years, making Chongqing the flag bearer for a democratic Party and the living spirit of Yan’an; to truly become a Special Zone for political reform. Unfortunately, my father has been too-long educated by the Party, ultimately prioritizing the Party and national power. I had hoped that through reflection and regret, the negative effects of the Chongqing model could be ameliorated. I had hoped that by sacrificing your political future, my Father could have restored the Party and the Country’s stability and harmony. Continue reading

princeling genealogy and advanced guanxixue

Normally, I am not a fan of imperial court television dramas first because the family dynamics of dog eat dog don’t appeal and also (and primarily) because I can’t keep track of all the players. Even with a scorecard, the nuances of multiple and overlapping connections between protagonists and lesser characters evade me. There are, for example, reportedly over 400 main characters in Dream of the Red Chamber. What’s more as an American, I like watching the action. However, as far as I can tell in an imperial television drama nothing of substance ever really happens — a marriage here, a conquered nation there, perhaps, but we never see it. Instead, the drama of an imperial court melodrama unfolds through charting various levels of family ties and in turn the revelation of who respects those ties, who abuses them, and who ignores what those ties mean. In other words, family protocols reveal personal ethics — national affairs are an effect thereof.

Take, for example, a brief sojourn into Bo Xilai’s family circle. I’ve already mentioned that his father was Bo Yibo and that his son, Guagua is know for his extravagant lifestyle. Bo Xilai’s second wife, Gu Kailai is a Beijing lawyer slash Princess. Gu Kailai’s father and Bo Yilai’s father-in-law, Gu Jingsheng (谷景生) was one of the key leaders in the December 9th [1935] Movement (一二九运动) to organize resistance against the Japanese invasion. Imprisoned for twelve years (from the Anti-Rightest campaign through the Cultural Revolution), Gu Jingsheng was appointed Vice Political Commissar of the Guangzhou Military Region after his rehabilitation, leading troupes in China’s brief Vietnam War, when Deng Xiaoping secured his place among PLA leaders. In 1981, Gu Jingsheng was appointed Second Secretary of Xinjiang, the first Secretary of the Xinjiang Production Brigade, and first Standing Member of the Xinjiang Provincial Politboro.  Just a few days ago, Bo Xilai’s brother-in-law, Lt. General Gu Junshan (谷俊山), Vice Minister of the People’s Liberation Army was removed from office. Speculation is that the removal is connected to the Wang Lijun fiasco and associated corruption charges.

All this to say, the Bo Xilai Wang Lijun scandal has rekindled my anthropological interest in genealogy and its obvious connection to guanxixue (关系学). And yes, it seems that Bo Xilai’s family background is more and more the story, regardless of what he or Wang Lijun may or may not have done. Meanwhile, Shenzhen announcements have begun to remind us that in 1979, when Xi Zhongxun, father of China’s future leader Xi Jinping was Guangdong’s governor, he proposed the establishment of the Shenzhen SEZ. And in that shimmering moment of imperial court Princeling drama, Deng Xiaoping is simultaneously remembered and erased from Shenzhen history, as local leaders try to position themselves and the SEZ as close to the inner party family as they can.