“Before Bo came, Chongqing was like a little girl. After Bo, we grew into a young beauty,” said Ding Rui, a 43-year-old tourist-van driver and Chongqing native. In January, Ding, his wife and their daughter moved into a brand-new, government-subsidized, 785-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment — thanks to one of Bo’s pet projects: to build housing for low-income residents.
“He made a lot of dramatic changes that ordinary people can feel,” Ding said. “As for the new party secretary, we don’t even know what he looks like.”
The new regional leader, Zhang Dejiang, has signaled that the private sector might gain more official support after being largely neglected under Bo’s “red revival’’ approach to communism. But Zhang has shown no sign of rolling back the big-ticket construction projects and social welfare programs that made Bo something of a local hero.
The charismatic son of a Mao-era revolutionary hero, Bo had been considered one of the Communist Party’s rising political stars until his prospects began to unravel Feb. 6, when his right-hand man, Wang Lijun, the vice mayor and longtime police chief, sought refuge for 24 hours at the U.S. Consulate in nearby Chengdu.
Bo was fired as Chongqing party chief March 15. A month later, he was dismissed from the Communist Party Central Committee and the elite Politburo after authorities announced that his wife, Gu Kailai, and a household aide were suspected of killing a British businessman, Neil Heywood.
Bo’s sudden and dramatic downfall has upset the Communist Party’s carefully choreographed plans for a once-in-a-decade leadership change this year, and it has posed the gravest challenge to authorities since the 1989 upheaval caused by the Tiananmen Square protests.
Bo has not been linked to the Heywood slaying, and it remains unclear what, if any, charges he might face.
A spate of news reports has emerged in the past few weeks linking Bo and his family members to business interests in China and overseas, suggesting that he could be charged with corruption. A special Chinese investigations unit, with members from the party’s discipline commission and the Finance Ministry, recently visited Hong Kong to trace some of the Bo family’s assets, according to news reports and people with knowledge of the inquiry.
“Whether they would charge the couple with corruption and economic crimes and money laundering, I think the decision has not yet been made,” said Willy Wo-Lap Lam, an adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and a longtime China watcher. “That’s why they sent people to Hong Kong — to look at the money trail. They also want to recover the money, which has been laundered overseas. Whether they would use that as evidence against the couple is another question.”