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China's Bo scandal haunts Chongqing

CHONGQING, China -- One year after Chongqing's police chief set off China's biggest scandal in decades, the megacity has seen revelations of torture and corruption but little action on alleged abuses during the reign of disgraced leader Bo Xilai.

Symbols of Bo's time in power have been erased from the city he ruled as Communist Party chief, but media reports on his wrongdoings say little of his links with leaders of the party in which he was once a rising star.

The scandal began to emerge on Feb. 6, when Wang Lijun fled to a U.S. Consulate seeking asylum after falling out with his patron Bo, now held at a secret location awaiting trial for crimes including abuse of power and bribery.

Wang has been jailed for 15 years on similar charges, while Bo's wife was handed a suspended death sentence for the murder of a British businessman — one of the most lurid elements in the drama.

As Chongqing boss and member of the elite Politburo, Bo stood out for his suave and open demeanor, seen as refreshing among China's rigid leadership. But his signature ideological and anti-mafia campaigns drew both hero-worship and accusations of serious abuses.

The gang crackdown saw thousands of people arrested and several high-profile executions, while his “Sing Red” Maoist revivalism saw stadiums packed out for patriotic concerts and officials sent to work in the countryside, raising memories of the disastrous Cultural Revolution.

Analysts say a stream of reports in recent months — including details of torture centers, hushed-up sex tapes of local politicians, and labour camp sentences for dissenters — foreshadow harsh punishment for Bo.

Chongqing's mayor declared last month that his influence had been “eradicated,” and characters rendered in Wang's own calligraphy have been erased from a pair of huge concrete balls outside the police headquarters.

But more fundamental changes in the 33-million-strong municipality, such as legal attempts to overturn what human rights lawyers see as unjust verdicts during Bo's tenure, have foundered.

Ren Jianyu, a low-level Chongqing official sentenced to two years labour for criticising Bo's policies online, was released early after nationwide outrage, but his lawsuit for wrongful imprisonment was rejected in November.

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