BEIJING--A number of websites known for criticizing China’s capitalist reforms were shut down following the March 15 announcement that Bo Xilai had been dismissed as secretary of the Communist Party's Chongqing municipal committee.
Bo, a charismatic and telegenic political performer, was considered a rising star by conservatives in China who nostalgically recall the Mao Tse-tung era and are critical of economic reform measures taken in recent years.
The shutting down of the websites associated with the conservative wing may be an attempt by the Communist Party’s national leadership to prevent a backlash from conservative commentators following Bo’s fall from grace.
After March 15, the website Utopia, to which conservative commentators often posted articles, could not be accessed.
A source associated with the website said, "There have been operating problems with our computer server."
Other sites that have stressed the social problems caused by rapid economic development and have advocated a return to the decade when the chaotic Cultural Revolution raged have also been shut down.
While in office, Bo started a campaign in Chongqing to encourage the singing of revolutionary songs from the Mao era. He also argued for a correction of the economic disparities that had accompanied China's recent economic development.
Partly due to his background in the Red Guard movement, a major force during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, Bo was considered a political star among conservatives inside and outside the Communist Party.
A high-ranking official with the magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu, which is supported by party elders who favor economic reform, said: "Bo shouldered the expectations of various conservative elements, from moderates, who took a cautious stance toward the rapid reforms being made in the economic field, to those with extreme views, who sought a return to the days of the Cultural Revolution. Those conservative forces have now lost a major pillar."
At a news conference after the closing of the National People's Congress, Premier Wen Jiabao sharply criticized the leadership of Chongqing, including Bo.
A college professor who leans toward support of the economic reforms said Wen's remarks were clearly raising the banner for continued reform.
"I strongly felt the determination to push forward with economic reform by returning to the course set by Deng Xiaoping, who criticized the Cultural Revolution," the professor said.
Most observers are interpreting Bo’s ouster more as an individual drama rather than the start of an outright struggle between the conservative and economic reform wings of the Communist Party.
A high-ranking official of the political theory journal Qiushi, an organ of the Communist Party Central Committee, said: "For the time being, Bo will be questioned about his responsibility for the unusual incident of his deputy mayor seeking refuge at a U.S. Consulate General. It is still too early to link that incident with a confrontation over political direction."
Bo had been under pressure since his police chief, Vice Mayor Wang Lijun, fled to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu in February. Wang later left the consulate and was put under investigation by Chinese officials.
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