Chongqing Residents Confront Fallen Leader's Mixed Legacy

Stephanie Ho

As investigators in Beijing continue to make their case against Bo Xilai, the disgraced politician leaves a legacy in Chongqing of tackling high-profile issues like crime and expensive housing. But some say Bo's improvements in the southwestern Chinese city merely covered up deeper problems.

As Chinese real-estate prices soared in recent years, Chongqing officials responded with a plan for 13 million square meters of low-income housing, starting in 2010 with the Minxin Jiayuan development. Hu Yuehu moved in last May and says he is happy with his rapidly built home.

"Yes, they are pretty new," said Hu.  "They started building them two years ago. It took them less than one year to build.  Over here, they are still under construction."

Neighbor Liu has some complaints: food is too expensive and transportation is inconvenient.  However, she has no complaints about Bo Xilai, whom she credits with making Chongqing safer.

"There used to be guns and rifles and killings. To tell you the truth, those things decreased after he came," Liu recalled.

"Safe Chongqing" is one of Bo's slogans plastered all over town. He set up street level policing stations, and hired more female officers and traffic cops. The focus was safer - and greener - streets. But critics say these improvements were only surface-deep. Prominent lawyer Sun Farong says there were improprieties in Bo's famous campaign against organized crime.

"For example, this has certainly happened in extracting confessions," said Sun.  "We have a lawyer colleague who was defending a female client.  When she was released from jail, she had many injuries on her body."

She also accuses Bo's government of inflating statistics.

"He has said many times that he has solved more than 700 cases, but with the statistics they give, I have doubts. They say one number today, and then say another tomorrow," Sun added.

Propaganda signs that say "Serve the People" were once common in Chongqing, but they have been disappearing since Bo was fired more than a month ago. Residents say this one has since been removed.

As evidence of Bo's public campaigns slowly fades, Chongqing locals like Minxin Jiayuan resident Liu say the famous leader's political fall has been jarring.

"I do not dare to believe it.  We have just heard that his wife killed a man. The news says it, but it might be an excuse so that they can remove him. We do not dare to be sure about that. We just play mahjong and chat," said Liu

She adds that most Chinese people know not to talk about high-level politics, and are trying to accept the government's version of the Bo controversy.

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