Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Ambitious Party Leader in China Does Damage Control

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Ambitious Party Leader in China Does Damage Control

Article excerpt

A scandal involving the police chief of Chongqing has threatened the political career of Bo Xilai, the embattled Communist Party chief of the central Chinese metropolis.

Jockeying to salvage his political career, the embattled Communist Party chief of Chongqing, Bo Xilai, championed his success in running the central Chinese metropolis on Friday, even as he acknowledged failing to supervise a trusted aide who recently fled to a U.S. Consulate, causing a national sensation.

Mr. Bo's public concession of error nevertheless bolstered speculation that his chances were slim to join the top ranks of the Chinese leadership during a change of power later this year.

Speaking at a news conference during the annual meeting of China's handpicked legislature, the National People's Congress, Mr. Bo said he had "neglected my oversight duties" in the case of his aide, Wang Lijun.

As Chongqing's police chief, Mr. Wang ran a sweeping anti-crime crackdown three years ago that led to thousands of arrests and destroyed some of the city's wealthiest business executives.

The campaign propelled Mr. Bo's thinly veiled crusade to win a seat on the Standing Committee of the Politburo, the nine-member committee that effectively runs China. Seven of the nine members will be replaced at a party conference this autumn.

But Mr. Wang rocked that transition, and dealt a blow to Mr. Bo's ambitions, by seeking refuge last month in the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu, about 360 kilometers, or 220 miles, from Chongqing, after coming under scrutiny in a corruption inquiry. He left the consulate after spending one night there and was taken by security officials to Beijing, where he remains under investigation.

The scandal has emboldened Mr. Bo's many critics, some of whom are calling the crackdown an out-of-control assault on criminals and political enemies alike.

Mr. Bo's statement on Friday reinforces accounts by government insiders who say he had earlier delivered a similar apology to the Politburo and offered to resign, although Mr. Bo on Friday called reports of that offer "totally imaginary."

The controversy over his future has added a measure of drama to the normally bland annual meetings of the congress and an advisory group, the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. …

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