What China's Talking About Today: The Firing of Bo Xilai

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Chinese Web users respond to the sudden downfall of one of the country's most well-known officials.

bo feb15 p.jpg

Bo Xilai / Reuters

Formerly a potential candidate for Beijing's nine-member Politburo Standing Committee, Bo Xilai was fired from his role as Chongqing Party chief today.

Bo was publicly rebuked yesterday by Prime Minister Wen Jiabao at the closing of the the National People's Congress for his relationship with Wang Lijun, Chonqing's former police chief, the object of an ongoing corruption investigation.

Wang Lijun hid from authorities at the U.S. consulate in Chengdu early last month until hundreds of police surrounded the building. He was said to be receiving "vacation-style treatment for stress."

The term "vacation-style treatment," a symbol of his corruption, was quickly popularized by Chinese Web users on sites like Sina Weibo.

Bo originally appointed Wang as police chief to help combat local triads, a move that garnered Bo much attention from international and Chinese media as a corruption buster and a promoter of the rule of law.

Now, less than a day after Bo's dismissal, comments on roughly 300,000 micro-blogs on Weibo discuss it. Many seem to marvel at the firing, seeing it as a progressive move to hold China's ruling class accountable to rule of law.

Chinese author Li Mingsheng wrote, on his Weibo feed: "Bo Xilai, class is dismissed... The curtain is falling on China's greatest political showman."

In previous attempts to ingratiate himself to Communist Party leadership in Beijing, Bo Xilai spearheaded a revival of revolutionary spirit, encouraging students to willingly xia xiang or go work in the countryside like the "sent-down" urban youth of the Cultural Revolution, who were pushed to shed bourgeois attitudes with manual labor.

He also famously sent out a series of Red Texts to Chongqing mobile numbers in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic.

A mixed response from international media met Bo's throwback to the Cultural Revolution, a movement that the contemporary Chinese government once famously conceded was "30 percent bad."

Many of the messages emphasized the need to keep government officials accountable, in order to avoid what Prime Minister Wen called a "Cultural Revolution-style" recycling of Party leadership.

Beijing-based user 齐辰逸 wrote: "There are still a lot of problems in the Chinese system, and a lot of problems are with transparency. Wang Lijun, from start to finish, hasn't given us a clear explanation of what happened. There's never any process [of divulging information], just direct consequences are presented to the public. Bo Xilai is even more of a comedy. We don't even know exactly why, and he's just recalled. What kind of society is this? What kind of country??"

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Massoud Hayoun is a digital-news producer for Al Jazeera America.

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