China clears museum of Bo Xilai items

China clears museum of Bo Xilai items

CHINA - The Dalian Modern Museum, commissioned during former mayor Bo Xilai's term to showcase the city's rapid growth, once boasted exhibits on the achievements that brought renown to the city and Bo.

Opened in 2002, it used to display projects linked to him, including a champion football team and a squad of female mounted police officers.

But not any more, with China's propaganda machine dismantling the former politician's reputation as his trial approaches.

Any references to the one-time political star at the US$24-million (S$30-million) museum have disappeared, along with once-prominent displays showcasing signature features of Dalian, which Bo was credited with transforming in the 1990s.

In recent months, a hodgepodge of items has been on show instead, among them a gallery of American works of art, display cases of 20th-century pipes and stamps, and Inner Mongolian stirrups and jewellery dating back a millennium.

Although some locals still remember Bo fondly, the makeover is emblematic of the way the ruling Communist Party is scrubbing away the vestiges of the disgraced politician, whose trial on bribery and other charges is scheduled for this month.

"There's this idea of getting rid of everything, the person and the accomplishments," said Ms Maria Repnikova, an Oxford University researcher of state-media relations in China. "While it might appear disturbing to many observers, if you look at other historic events, this method has been used in the past."

Until his downfall, Bo had been praised for transforming Dalian into a development success story, before he moved on to head the provincial government of Liaoning and the national commerce ministry.

In 2007, he moved to Chongqing and drew further attention with a "red revival", exemplified by revolutionary songs and populist policies that came to be known as the "Chongqing model" of development.

But his leftist bent alienated some leaders, and he was brought down after his police chief fled to a United States consulate with evidence that Bo's wife had killed a British associate, lifting the lid on the scandal.

Bo's successor later said that there was "no such thing as a Chongqing model".

A respected Chinese magazine last week reported that the corruption charges Bo will face will focus on his time in Dalian - a narrow scope that could help contain the damaging political fallout.

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