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Beijing's political thriller plays on
The fallout from the ousting of former Communist Party star Bo Xilai continues.

In China, the case of the fallen Communist Party star Bo Xilai reads more like a political thriller every day.

The charismatic anti-corruption campaigner was tipped to become part of the next politburo that runs the country.

But last month, he was removed as mayor of the city of Chongqing after falling foul of corruption allegations of his own.

Since then, he hasn't been seen in public and Beijing has been gripped by rumours of his demise and in-fighting at the very top of the party.

China correspondent Huey Fern Tay reports.
Transcript
HUEY FERN TAY, REPORTER: Change has come to Chongqing in subtle and gradual ways. TV dramas that disappeared from prime time years ago have returned on Chongqing television.

The majority of the programs are still about culture and commercials have yet to make a full return to the airwaves.

But there's no question the red revolution former party boss Bo Xilai spearheaded on a large scale is being wound back. There is, after all, a new man in charge.

ZHANG LIFAN, HISTORIAN (Translation): Zhang Dejiang's main task is to maintain stability in Chongqing because Mr Bo left behind many problems when he was in charge.

HUEY FERN TAY: With Bo Xilai no longer at the helm in Chongqing and his police chief, Wang Li ZHUANG, gone as well people who say they were victims of his crackdown on organised crime are coming forward.

Li Zhuang is a former lawyer who represented a gangland boss in Chongqing a few years ago only to convicted and jailed for coercing his client to say he was tortured. He says more than 10 people have approached him so far.

LI ZHUANG, FORMER LAWYER (Translation): There are a few things they have in common; firstly, confession through torture. Secondly, all their assets were confiscated.

HUEY FERN TAY: Li Zhuang was put on trial just 18 days after his arrest. He says he was subjected to sleep deprivation while in police custody and that this was the norm in Chongqing at the time.

LI ZHUANG (Translation): This practice was widespread, anyone who went in was not allowed to sleep for the first two days. I was handcuffed to the tiger seat for three days and three nights. What do you think happened to the average person; they had it even worse, they were hung and beaten. They were beaten until they defecated and urinated on themselves uncontrollably.

HUEY FERN TAY: Now disbarred because of his criminal conviction Li Zhuang and others are seeking redress. He has been fighting for his innocence ever since he was released from prison last June.

LI ZHUANG (Translation): there is hope at least from the legal point of view. There must be, if they don't then it won't be in accordance with normal legal procedures.

HUEY FERN TAY: Until his removal from office last month, Bo Xilai was on course to become a member of China's politburo standing committee. But in the weeks since his political assent was abruptly halted rumours, many of them bizarre, have begun to emerge about Mr Bo's time in charge of Chongqing.

The death of businessman Neil Haywood is one such story to come up, with Mr Bo linked to the suggestion that the Englishman met with foul play.

ZHANG LIFAN (Translation): I find this very strange too because Mr Haywood's family members did not make any appeals about this matter. It was the British Foreign Office that made the request. I personally feel this goes against the norm.

HUEY FERN TAY: Public chatter about Neil Haywood in China's wildly popular microblog service Sina Weibo has been censored along with rumours about a coup in the capital, tanks on streets and gunshots fired in Zhongnanhai.

All this speculation prompted the operators of Sina Weibo and its rival service, Tencent to suspend the comment function on its microblog for three days. This function has now been restored.

But some of the 16 websites that were shut down as part of the initial suspension remain closed. It's also unknown what's happened to the six people who were detained by police. This has been interpreted as a warning from authorities.

JEREMY GOLDOM, SOCIAL MEDIA ANALYST: After the ethnic riots or the events in Xinjiang in July 2009 an entire province, the autonomous region of Xinjiang, was shut off from the internet for more than half a year. So I think if the government feels that they need to take stricter measures they will.

HUEY FERN TAY: The move to reign in the rumour mill in Chinese cyberspace has added more drama to this unusually rocky period in Chinese politics.

In recent days reports have also surfaced that a Chinese tycoon closely linked to Bo Xilai is being investigated for alleged economic crimes.

The fallout from the toppling of Bo Xilai continues with just months away from the beginning of a high stakes power handover that only happens once every 10 years.

ZHANG LIFAN (Translation): I think maybe things really aren't that simple, because if it is true that Xu Ming had close ties with Bo Xilai, then we have to wait and see if Xu Ming really is Bo Xilai's financial backer.

HUEY FERN TAY: In Chongqing the changes that have happened since the ousting of Bo Xilai have raised even more questions that remain unanswered.

And while there's no official comment about Mr Bo's fate, the public can only guess about what's happening behind the scenes at the very top of the Chinese ruling party.
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