Editor's note: This is the 14th of a series on Bo Xilai. This series will appear on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
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CHONGQING, China--Uniformed officers are stationed at 500 police boxes on the streets of Chongqing, giving residents a sense of security and even a place to borrow an umbrella.
“Thanks to the police boxes, I can now walk the streets at night without worrying about getting mugged even when I’m wearing earrings,” said a woman in her 20s who works at a restaurant.
But these police boxes, which resemble open cafes, are symbols of a darker past in the city’s recent history.
They were built by Bo Xilai as part of his “dahei” (gang-busting) campaign aimed at eradicating organized crime and maintaining law and order. The campaign struck fear in the mafia and corrupt government officials. But it also terrified those whose only offense was to criticize the leader of Chongqing.
The main enforcer of this campaign was a man named Wang Lijun, who had worked under Bo as the chief of the Tieling public security bureau in Liaoning province when Bo was governor. Bo brought Wang to Chongqing in 2008 and appointed him deputy chief of the municipal public security bureau to lead criminal investigations.
In the 80 days after his appointment, Wang opened 32,000 criminal cases and arrested 9,500 people, according to a local media organization.
In August 2009, Wang arrested Wen Qiang, who headed the municipal judiciary bureau, on charges of receiving bribes from an organized crime group. Wen was a big gun who served as deputy chief of the municipal public security bureau for 16 years.
According to local media reports, investigators who searched Wen’s home found cash in foreign currencies and gold bars worth about 500 million yen.
Eleven months after his arrest, Wen was executed. His subordinates were also detained. According to reports at the time, more than 3,500 police executives were punished up to March 2010.
“It was as if they were made an example to members of the old guard who fell out of Bo’s favor,” recalled a former reporter with Chongqing Ribao, the organ of the municipal Communist Party committee. “Government employees were terrified and shut up.”
Fang Hong, 45, a former official of the forestry bureau of Chongqing’s Fuling district, felt that innocent people who displeased Bo were arrested and made into criminals by judicial authorities under Bo’s initiative.
In April 2011, Fang was subjected to disciplinary action of a one-year labor and study program for criticizing the dahei campaign on his blog. The labor and study program is a system used by investigative authorities to detain citizens without a trial and put them in forced labor.
“Chongqing was dominated by fascism that denied all forms of criticism,” Fang said.
Fang, whose parents were persecuted when he was a child, thought that the Cultural Revolution, a period when leaders in power ignored law and cracked down on enemy forces, had returned. According to Fang, a local public security official told him that what was happening was “a political problem.”
In February, Wang, who led the dahei campaign, was himself captured. When the news of his arrest reached the factory where Fang was forced to work as a prisoner, a great roar of cheers arose.
By the time Fang served his sentence and was released in April, Bo had also fallen from power. In June, in response to Fang’s complaint, a court made an about-face and ruled his punishment of forced labor “illegal.”
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