Erasing Bo Xilai - and his achievements - from the record

Erasing Bo Xilai - and his achievements - from the record

DALIAN - The Dalian Modern Museum once boasted exhibits on the achievements that brought renown to the city in north-eastern China and its former mayor Bo Xilai. Not any more, with China's propaganda machine dismantling Bo's reputation as his trial approaches.

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.

In recent months a hodgepodge of items have instead been on show, including a gallery of American artwork, in the museum opened in 2002 during Bo's mayorship.

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. Such erasure is not uncommon in China, as with the case of the 1989 Tiananmen protest.

Until his downfall, Bo had been praised for transforming Dalian into a development success story during the 1990s. After two other transfers he moved to Chongqing in the south-west in 2007 and drew further attention with his "red revival", which was marked by revolutionary songs and populist policies.

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

Bo has not been seen in public since March last year, and has had no opportunity to defend himself as his image is taken apart.

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

Efforts to undo his accomplishments may not find fertile ground among locals in Dalian.

"Without Bo Xilai, Dalian would not be what it is today," said a resident.

"Everyone has pros and cons, but you have to see if he has more pros or more cons."

Another 58-year-old resident surnamed Li agreed: "If he made mistakes, then he made mistakes. You still cannot forget the good things he did. You cannot just erase his positive side."

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