Bo Xilai with his wife Gu Kailai in happier times. Their current whereabouts are unknown.
Japanese political commentator Keisuke Udagawa of the newspaper Yukan Fuji claims to have had an exclusive interview with former Chongqing chief Bo Xilai on April 26 in Beijing. The two are said to go back some 15 years when Udagawa was chief of legal affairs for a Japanese supermarket and Bo was the mayor of Dalian. Udagawa says Bo told him in the interview that he should have divorced his wife Gu Kailai back in 2000, and that some day he would make a political comeback like Ichiro Ozawa, the former chair of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party who was accused of accepting illegal political donations but eventually declared innocent.
Taiwan’s Want China Times tells us how the interview came about:
Following Bo’s dismissal as Chongqing party chief in March, China’s national security bureau asked Udagawa to assist with their investigation into Bo’s family. Udagawa demanded a meeting with Bo as part of the deal. Authorities eventually permitted him to dine with Bo, but no recording or photographs would be permitted.
In April, Udagawa dined with Bo at a private room at a hotel near Tiananmen Square in Beijing together with two translators, including one from the national security bureau, while two police officers stood outside the room. Peking duck, chicken, fish and abalone were served.
Udagawa said Bo seemed tired but also mild and peaceful. Bo denied most of the scandals that have been reported about himself and crucially denied that his downfall was because of internal struggles within the Communist Party hierarchy. He said instead that he had been set up as a result of taking on powerful vested interests in his campaign against corruption and crime in Chongqing.
“I cracked down hard on corruption and criminal practices while I was the party secretary of Chongqing, removing some city officials who were involved with criminal syndicates. Some people hated me for this. They used their remaining power to get back at me on account of my wife. I was framed by their plot,” Bo told Udagawa during the meal, remarks which were later quoted by Yukan Fuji.
China watchers in Taiwan say the interview, while bizarre, could have been genuine. Via the Central News Agency:
Wong Ming-hsien, chair of the Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies at Tamkang University, told the VOA that the interview, if genuine, meant that Beijing had changed its attitude toward Bo.
From initially insisting on harshly prosecuting him, the authorities now seem to be leaving open the possibility that Bo’s case could be handled in other ways, Wong said.
With China facing so many thorny issues, including the case of blind dissident Chen Guangcheng, a sovereignty dispute with the Philippines in the South China Sea, and a domestic economic slowdown, Wong contended that Beijing will want to deal with Bo’s case quickly to lessen its impact in other areas.
Lin added, however, that while Bo might never be prosecuted, it would be unrealistic to think he could regain political power.
Meanwhile, Kou Chien-wen, an international relations professor at National Chengchi University, said Bo’s opportunity to speak with Japanese media was “bizarre.”
Kou said that since 1949, no Chinese political leader who was under investigation had ever been able to contact the outside world, let alone be interviewed by foreign media.