A Chinese academic and supporter of Bo Xilai set up a political party to push the ruling Communist Party to obey the country’s constitution, and made the ousted Politburo member its chairman.
Zhi Xian, which means supreme authority of the constitution, was founded on Nov. 6, three days before the country’s top Communist leaders started a four-day summit to map out a blueprint for economic and social reforms. Bo, who was sentenced in September to life in prison for bribery, abuse of power and embezzlement, has been named its “chairman for life,” said founder Wang Zheng.
The Communist Party has ruled China since 1949 and while the country has eight smaller non-Communist parties, they aren’t independent and there’s no official opposition. Writer Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to 11 years in jail in 2009 on a charge of plotting to subvert the Communist Party after helping to organize Charter 08, an open letter calling for direct elections and freedom of assembly.
“I set up this party because while this society has laws, it is not ruled according to the law and that is very apparent in the Bo Xilai case,” Wang, an associate professor of international trade at the Beijing Institute of Economics and Management, said in a telephone interview yesterday. “Our goal is to correct the ruling party’s violations of the constitution. We are not trying to stop one-party rule.”
About 370 of the Communist Party’s top officials, including President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang, government ministers, military officers and heads of state-owned companies, are meeting in Beijing for what’s known as the Third Plenum, to agree on an economic and social road-map for the next decade.
Bo was mentioned as a possible candidate for the elite Politburo Standing Committee before his ouster and his sentence fits a broader campaign against corruption that Xi has said poses a threat to Communist rule. His trial broke with precedent because the court where it took place released edited transcripts of his defense. Bo denied all the charges.
“This could be the arch conservative faction of the party putting pressure on Xi Jinping to make some concessions regarding reform policies during the plenum session,” Willy Wo-Lap Lam, an adjust professor of history at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said by phone yesterday. “I don’t think that this new party will survive too long however, as Xi is very focused on uniformity of thinking within the party.”
Wang, who is in her late forties, said she notified China’s nine political parties as well as bodies including the National People’s Congress, the country’s parliament, that she set up the organization. So far there has been no reaction from the authorities, Wang said, although she said she and others have had “special treatment” for the last year, with their freedom to travel limited.
“We are not trying to stop one-party rule,” she said. “Concentration of power keeps the country from chaos but this concentration of power must be done according to the law.”
Wang wouldn’t disclose how many people have joined the party but said the number had exceeded her expectations. Membership figures will be announced at the party’s first congress which may take place in six months’ time, she said.
Wang said she has never met Bo, a former commerce minister whose last post before his March 2012 ouster was as the party’s top official in the southwestern city of Chongqing. He was suspended from the Politburo a month later and accused of serious disciplinary violations after his wife, Gu Kailai, was accused of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood. Gu was later convicted and given a suspended death sentence.
An invitation was sent on Oct. 8 to Bo through his lawyer to become head of the party, Wang said. She hasn’t received a response, “which means I accept it as silent approval,” she said
Bo attracted support for his brand of leadership, which stressed cutting wealth disparities. He gained popularity for cracking down on organized crime in Chongqing and his efforts to improve urban life.
“What Bo did in Chongqing was to carry out the constitution,” Wang said. “What Bo did for the people was for real.”