Following the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, President Xi Jinping has rendered himself the omnipotent ruler of one fifth of the world’s population. Xi has defeated his political rivals with no mercy; among them was a rising political star, Bo Xilai, who was shot down in 2012 and is now in prison. Bo has been nearly forgotten – until early this year when his dramatic life and political battle were revived by Carrie Gracie with her brilliant BBC podcast series, Intrigue: Murder in the Lucky Holiday Hotel.
Although as a Chinese native I followed fairly closely the toppling of Bo, this series has provided me with many unheard materials. As a Google Policy Fellow studying news censorship, I happened to witness how Chinese media were controlled in the thick of Bo’s drama. For NetEase alone, a top news portal in China, about 50 articles were censored during the week when police chief Wang Lijun, once Bo’s right arm, ran to the US consulate for asylum. Gracie thrilllingly portrays a tragedy “with no heroes but only villains and victims”. They include: Bo, the fallen politician; Gu, his wife; Guagua, their son; Wang; and Neil Heywood, a British expat in China whose life was mythically entangled with elites across nations and whose death has forever changed Chinese history.