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Chongqing protest – but it’s not for Bo
A month after the Bo Xilai saga began to unravel, there have been demonstrations in Chongqing and clashes with the police. But, no, they were not by “red songs” enthusiasts in support of their fallen idol. Instead, they were protesting at a legacy of his rule, evidently feeling emboldened to do so now that he is gone.
Several thousand students and residents marched on Tuesday to protest against the forcible merger of two districts, Wansheng and Qijiang, which had been decided as part of the urban development plan. They waved banners and were met by riot police who threw tear-gas. The protestors claim that the enforced merger of the districts has reduced welfare benefits and slowed down the local economy. Bo had pushed through the change, approved in Beijing. The demonstrators chanted “Return Wansheng district to us!" and "We want to eat!" and fought with police into the night of Tuesday to Wednesday. That was followed by plans to block roads to prevent army troops being sent in.
Several thousand students and residents marched on Tuesday to protest against the forcible merger of two districts, Wansheng and Qijiang, which had been decided as part of the urban development plan. They waved banners and were met by riot police who threw tear-gas bombs.
Meanwhile, the liquidation of Bo-era nostalgia is gathering pace in Chongqing as local newspapers parrot Beijing’s insistence that everybody must stand united behind the new order of things in the mega-municipality. “Red songs” gatherings are banned and the Communist Party propaganda slots that Bo ran in prime time on local television have been replaced by commercial advertising.
In view of his lavish spending on the city and its inhabitants, the provision of cheap housing and the extensive development of urban infrastructure, there will inevitably be a degree of nostalgia for the departed boss. But the level of support is probably a good deal thinner than suggested by those who see him as a very popular figure whose ouster will be lamented at the grass roots.
Clearly the accusations against his wife are part of a political campaign to denigrate Bo and all connected with him. For Beijing he is yesterday’s man, to be obliterated from the public record whenever possible. As noted in an earlier blog posting, a prominent business figure linked to him has been arrested. Others may well follow.
The local press says that a prominent member of the Municipal Committee has been dismissed and a senior police official is being investigated. Other leading municipal officials can be expected to trim to the new wind to try to save their job. Though this may produce a hiatus in decision-making, there is no reason to think that big development projects, including those involving foreign firms such as the new laptop park near the university area, will be halted.
If Beijing tries to turn the clock back in Chongqing, it will be following a dangerous path. But if it can continue Bo’s development policies without Bo, it will probably be able to impose a new, non-Bo system in the city while warning any other would-be mavericks that they had better toe the line. Still, Bo retains backing among China’s neo-Maoists; their website, called Utopia, has been shut down but it sent out a defiant message on the Internet today: "No matter how much you block us, we still support Bo Xilai!"