As Bo starts prison term his torture legacy endures: Lawyers

As Bo starts prison term his torture legacy endures: Lawyers

CHONGQING, China - Thousands of people across China have been jailed in campaigns lawyers say are modelled on the brutal and lucrative anti-mafia drive of fallen politician Bo Xilai, who was this week sentenced to life behind bars for corruption.

As head of the southwestern megacity of Chongqing, Bo masterminded a crackdown that saw thousands of arrests, several executions, televised trials and lurid tales of a mafia "godmother" who kept a stable of 16 male partners.

But the campaign, known as "strike the black", also drew allegations of torture to extract confessions and illegal confiscation of suspects' assets, and when Bo's political career imploded in scandal last year, details of secret torture bases surfaced in Chinese media.

Private business owners were a particular target, and critics say the drive was aimed at increasing the clout of state-backed enterprises and boosting government coffers.

"Business owners were labelled as mafia members, and their property was taken," said Li Zhuang, a defence lawyer for one alleged Chongqing gang member, who was himself jailed for providing evidence that his client had been tortured.

"The money was never received by the central government, it was kept by local police," said Li, who has written that more than 100 billion yuan (S$20 billion) may have been seized during the campaign.

"Bo Xilai personally approved each arrest during the crackdown... he was hoping to raise money for his political campaigns. He needed money for self-promotion."

Li's accusations are echoed by entrepreneur victims of the campaign, which saw close to 5,000 arrests after its launch in 2009.

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