Bo Xilai's big spending projects now the focus of investigation


CHINESE INVESTIGATORS inquiring into the affairs of purged Communist Party heavyweight Bo Xilai are turning their attention to his free-spending populist ways when running the world’s biggest city, Chongqing.

Mr Bo is at the centre of China’s worst political scandal in decades. He was sacked as Chongqing’s party secretary on March 15th and suspended as a Politburo member for serious violations of discipline.

His wife Gu Kailai and aide Zhang Xiaojun are suspects in the death of Briton Neil Heywood, a friend and business associate of the Bo family.

Among the projects forming the “Chongqing Model” that investigators are taking a close look at are his tree-planting scheme, which cost an amazing €1.2 billion a year, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Mr Bo’s populist projects, which included funding for low-cost housing, earned him huge regard in Chongqing, a municipality of 32 million people, but the way they harkened back to projects of the Cultural Revolution era angered the Chinese leadership of President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.

The investigation into the details of the Chongqing Model could be the first stage in the erasure of Mr Bo’s legacy.

Mr Bo encouraged a kind of nostalgia for the era of Chairman Mao Zedong, with singing of old revolutionary songs and the encouraging of people to embrace old-fashioned values.

However, this ran counter to the leadership’s efforts to reform the economy and is generally believed to have played a key role in leading to Mr Bo’s downfall.

During his time in the city he spent billions of yuan on subsidies for teachers to make sure they earned the same as civil servants, introduced medical insurance schemes for workers made redundant, and planned to spend trillions of yuan on transforming the city into “a green Chongqing, transport Chongqing, safe Chongqing, a healthy Chongqing and a livable Chongqing” as the blurb ran at the time.

Mr Bo’s personal finances are also under close scrutiny in the investigation, and there has been a flurry of reports and speculation about his activities over the years.

And fresh speculation is emerging about what prompted Mr Bo’s police chief and close ally Wang Lijun to flee to the US consulate in Chengdu and seek asylum, the move which started the whole scandal.

The Hong Kong-based Yazhou Zhoukan said Mr Bo had three of Mr Wang’s close associates killed after he told him that his wife Gu Kailai was implicated in the death of Mr Heywood.

Quoting sources familiar with the investigation, the Chinese language weekly said Mr Wang had ordered some of his officers to investigate Mr Heywood’s death.

The evidence pointed to Ms Gu, and when Mr Wang told his boss the news, he slapped him and called him a dog.

The investigators were subsequently tortured and three died in the process.