Chinese Press Comes Dangerously Close to Journalism in Bo Scandal

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As the official Chinese press rushes to condemn disgraced Communist Party official Bo Xilai, the official party newspaper sounds like it's coming perilously close to doing actual investigative work into political corruption -- a potentially dangerous pursuit.

According to The New York Times' Andrew Jacobs and Michael Wines, reports from within China over the last week, including in the state-run People's Daily, outlined disciplinary violations and potential charges against former Chongqing party secretary Bo and his wife, Gu Kailai, herself accused of the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood. One People's Daily article, in particular, came close to conflating Bo's transgressions with those of other party officials. Per The Times:

The article said that corrupt party officials have been secretly using children, wives, friends and even mistresses to transfer and conceal ill-gotten wealth overseas. “Some even go through a variety of channels to clandestinely gain a foreign identity or dual nationality,” it said.

A campaign to expose the family’s web of business dealings carries certain risks, given that many members of China’s political elite profit from their connections and often stow their assets outside the country.

This presents a problem for China: How to win a publicity war against one of its own party insiders without exposing potential corruption among the rest. The Times story does a great job of tracing the wealth of Bo's family, and is worth a read because of that. But the broader implication is that Bo is far from the only powerful politician to carefully manage his wealth outside the state's sphere of influence.

Aside from the financial investigation, there's the criminal probe into the death of Heywood, whose friends The Guardian spoke with for a report on Thursday. Heywood reportedly told a friend he was "in trouble" the day he died, and that Bo's representatives had summoned him to Chongqing. Since Gu's arrest, Heywood's wife has been told by police not to speak about the case, and may not be able to leave the country, Reuteres reports. The Times carries a report from Heywood's funeral in London, which sounds like an extremely uncomfortable event in light of the newly revealed suspicions surrounding his death. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.