A leaked recording and transcript claiming to be a record of a top-level meeting of Chinese leaders purportedly shows that close relatives of former Chongqing Communist Party chief Bo Xilai have been linked to major corruption cases in the city.
The 25-minute recording and transcript, which were posted on YouTube and the U.S.-based Chinese news site Boxun, give a compelling account of what may have taken place between Bo and his police chief Wang Lijun before the latter fled to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu.
"On Jan. 29, Wang Lijun reported to Bo Xilai that some important cases were turning up links to Bo Xilai's family," the Boxun document said.
"He asked for Comrade Bo to give the cases his attention and deal with them, as some of his staff wanted to resign because they felt under pressure," said the document, which the New York Times newspaper said it had verified with Chinese sources as authentic.
After the meeting with Wang, Bo called a meeting of the city's leadership and decided to remove the police chief from his post, transferring him to an education and technology portfolio.
"This was done against regulations, without seeking the opinion of the Ministry of Public Security [in Beijing]," the transcript said.
The transcript, which was circulated among China's political elite the day after Bo's March 15 ouster, also confirmed speculation that Wang had discussed the possibility of seeking political asylum in the United States.
"Wang Lijun believed that his personal safety was under threat, and so he took the personal decision to enter the U.S. consulate in Chengdu without reporting the situation [to the central government]," the transcript said.
It said the Chengdu incident was "a very serious political incident" that had a negative impact domestically and internationally.
"Wang Lijun is directly responsible for the occurrence of this incident," it said, adding: "Bo Xilai, as Party secretary, bears the main leadership responsibility."
Bo's fall from power last week gave a rare glimpse of the power struggles taking place within the ruling Chinese Communist Party ahead of a crucial leadership transition later this year. Such dramas usually unfold behind closed doors.
Now, Chongqing residents who once gathered at Bo's behest to sing "red songs" from the Mao era in a square in the city center have been told to stop because they are "annoying the neighbors."
The move has coincided with the widespread censoring of leftist political opinion on the Chinese Internet.
Bo's dismissal last Thursday came just a day after Premier Wen Jiabao warned the nation of the perils of a return to an era of political turmoil and continual factional warfare.
Now, the city's official media appears keen to show that business is running as usual, as its new leadership moves to consolidate its power in a series of emergency political meetings in recent days.
Bo's successor Zhang Dejiang was quoted by the Chongqing Communist Party News on Tuesday as saying that he would put the city back on the right ideological track.
Zhang pledged during a teleconference that his administration would tell the truth and get things done, as well as "putting real energy into getting to the truth" and bringing stability to Chongqing's development and economic growth.
Debate on reform
Nationally, however, Wen's warnings and the identification of the charismatic Bo with a leftist attempt to turn back the clocks, have prompted rare public debate on political reform and a reckoning with the Party's bloody past in some newspapers.
"Only reform on the basis of democracy and rule of law can guarantee that momentum is kept and the objective is not lost," the Beijing News wrote in an editorial on Monday translated by the Hong Kong-based China Media Project.
"China can only move forward, we cannot move back or stand still. Moving forward can only depend on opening and reform," the paper said.
And in Guangzhou, the cutting-edge Southern Metropolis News called for people to speak out publicly in an attempt at reconciliation over the wrongs of the Cultural Revolution.
"The Cultural Revolution swept up every Chinese person at the time, whether man or woman, old or young—no one could escape it," the CMP blog quoted the paper as saying. The article added that most people were both persecutors and victims at various times.
"Up to now, only a precious few who experienced the Cultural Revolution have had the courage to speak out about their experiences persecuting others," the article said, noting that there is still no national museum commemorating that period of Chinese history.
Reported by Luisetta Mudie.