China Web Censors Fight Flood of Bo Commentary -By BRIAN SPEGELE & JOSH CHIN
Talk about the Chinese government’s probes into Bo Xilai and his wife, Gu Kailai, reverberated around China’s Internet Wednesday despite strict censorship efforts, demonstrating a difficult task ahead for Communist Party officials seeking to restore an image of order and unity.Mr. Bo this week became the target of a corruption probe and his wife was named by authorities as a suspect in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.
In Chongqing, the industrial megacity where Mr. Bo was Communist Party chief until his ouster in March, many people expressed support for Mr. Bo, citing a number of the initiatives that first helped him rise to national prominence.
The often foggy city of more than 30 million people, continued to bustle on Wednesday, with no obvious signs of additional security. Some residents—most of whom declined to give their names—said they never heard of Mr. Heywood before Tuesday’s announcement. Several residents said they felt that Mr. Bo’s most serious crime was failing to control the actions of his family.
The couple and their representatives couldn’t be reached to comment.Party officials called for unity both nationwide and in Chongqing. In a commentary for Thursday’s edition, People’s Daily, the party mouthpiece, pointed out that “China is in a critical period of building a well-off society and deepening reform as well as speeding up transformation of the economic development pattern.” It added, “To maintain reform, development and stability, the Chinese must unify their thinking and action in line with the central authority’s decision.”
The commentary built on similar language in a Wednesday editorial, which called for “firm support for the correct decision” and said Mr. Bo “seriously violated the party discipline, causing damage to the cause and the image of the party and state.”
In a separate Xinhua article, Mr. Bo’s successor in Chongqing, Zhang Dejiang, said local officials fully support the decision and “will spare no effort” to maintain stability.
“There is no privileged citizen before the law,” it said, citing local officials. “No one can interfere with law enforcement, and anyone who violates the law cannot be at large.”
In Chongqing, one third-year student at the city’s Southwest University of Political Science and Law, said, “If his family made mistakes, he still has to take responsibility.”
Supporters in the town pointed to Mr. Bo’s efforts to promote affordable housing, plant more trees and beautify the city as well as his high-profile crackdown on organized crime, which they said had made the city significantly safer in recent years.
“Red song” troupes—groups encouraged by Mr. Bo as part of a patriotism campaign that tapped songs and imagery from the Cultural Revolution—continued singing Communist revolutionary hymns on Wednesday, particularly in the city’s downtown People’s Square.Two dozen singers in two groups belted out “red” anthems—one woman claimed singing red songs was good for her health—even as they acknowledged the red song competitions that had blossomed under Mr. Bo were likely finished.
“In politics, the [Bo incident] is a huge political event,” said one man, 68 years old, who gave his name as Mr. Wang. He, and others, said the common folks in the city had received very little information about the matter.
The Bo saga led the front pages of major newspapers on Wednesday, and an image of the newspapers laid out together was one of the most forwarded posts on Sina Corp.’s Weibo microblogging service on Wednesday.
Sina Weibo continued to block searches for the names of Mr. Bo and Ms. Gu on Wednesday, making it difficult to gauge precisely how many users were discussing the scandal, but a search for “serious violations of discipline”—the charge leveled against Mr. Bo—produced nearly 400,000 posts Wednesday afternoon, suggesting a robust conversation.
Some focused on Mr. Heywood’s role in the drama, openly speculating as to whether Mr. Bo and Ms. Gu would have faced discipline had a foreigner not been involved.
“In the 19th century, the British came to China to trade and, because of a conflict over economic interests, a succession of horrible things happened and the Qing Dynasty was spent,” one Weibo user wrote in a post highlighted on Offbeat China, a blog that tracks the Chinese Internet. “A hundred years later, a Briton has come to China again, and again a succession of horrible things has happened because of conflict over economic interests. What happens next, I don’t dare imagine.”
Others speculated on any potential meaning behind the way state media referred to Ms. Gu. She was referenced as Ms. Bo Gu, using both her husband’s name and her own, which is different from the name she typically uses and is unusual in China. Searches for both versions of her name were blocked on Wednesday.
“It’s just like the old saying “beautiful women always bring trouble'” blaming all evil on women,” historian Lei Yi wrote. “Actually, it wasn’t Gu who made Bo into Bo, it was Bo who made Gu into Gu.”
Wrote pundit Sima Nan, a vociferous critic of the U.S.: “The entire party listens to the center. This is imperative. This is called being aware of the spirit of the party. But, as someone who may not be that smart but has the ability to think for himself, I honestly can’t keep up with the development of this drama.”
—William Kazer contributed to this article.