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The Bo Xilai Saga Continues

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China Power

The Bo Xilai Saga Continues

According to a Reuters report, Bo is causing Chinese officials nearly as much trouble in detention as he was causing them in power.

Disgraced former Politburo member Bo Xilai has refused to cooperate with Chinese authorities and has staged two hunger strikes, Reuters reported on Thursday citing two independent sources with ties close to the Bo family.

Once seen as a rising star and future Politburo Standing Committee member, Bo was ousted from the Communist Party last year after his recently dismissed police chief, Wang Lijun, sought asylum in a U.S. consulate, telling American diplomats there that Bo’s wife had murdered British businessman Neil Heywood. As the drama unfolded a series of other allegations emerged against Bo and his family, including that he wiretapped the phones of senior CCP officials.

Although Wang and Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, have both been tried and convicted of their crimes, Bo himself has yet to be formally charged but is presumed to be in CCP custody. He was last seen in March of last year.

According to the Reuters report Bo is causing party officials nearly as much trouble in detention as he was causing them in power. Both sources confirm he has gone on a hunger strike with one saying “He was on [a] hunger strike twice and force fed." Although he had not been tortured, according to the source, Bo had apparently grown so weak while in custody that at one point he was hospitalized in Beijing.

One of Reuters’ sources also said that Bo had refused to shave while in detention and now had a chest-length beard. The source went on to say that he was refusing to cooperate.

This would be entirely consistent with how Bo acted throughout his career. The Princeling son of Bo Yibo, one of the Eight Immortals who ruled China during the Deng Xiaoping era, the younger Bo is said to have, like many Princelings, seen it as his birth right to rule China. Bo's rapid rise through the CCP was partly attributable to his father's myriad connections. These included, among many others, General Secertary Jiang Zemin whom the elder Bo had helped come to power after he played a role in ousting his two immediate predcessors– Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang.

From the time he was mayor of Dalian in Northwest China, the younger Bo flaunted CCP protocols against self-promotion and personal extravagance. On Bo’s time in Dalin, John Garnaut has written, “It was his personal trophy town. It wasn’t long before he could control the color of the water fountains and the accompanying soundtracks.”

Later, as party chief of Chongqing, Bo shrouded himself in neo-Maoist populism as he concentrated power in his office. His so-called “Chongqing Model” achieved high rates of economic growth but his personal governing style and disregard for the party hierarchy and the law made Bo a lot of enemies, including Premier Wen Jiabao. In stark violation of CCP protocol, for instance, Bo often seemed to be publicly campaigning for a seat on the Politburo Standing Committee, from which he had been passed up for in 2007. 

So while Bo’s current antics may come off as Martyr-like given his current state of limbo in CCP detention,  they are little more than Bo’s life-long sense of entitlement and superiority in a new guise.

Particularly revealing was how one of Reuters’ sources described Bo’s attitude towards his interrogators: “He wouldn't answer questions and slammed his fist on a table and told them they were not qualified to question him and to go away [emphasis added].”

Zachary Keck is assistant editor of The Diplomat. He is on Twitter: @ZacharyKeck.

Editors Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly listed Bo as the Mayor of Chongqing.