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The Slap that Changed China's History

On September 24, 2012, the former police chief of Chongqing, Wang Lijun, who is at the center of China's biggest political scandal in recent memory, was sentenced to 15 years in prison on four charges: bending the law for personal interest, defection, abuse of power and corruption.

Wang Lijun, 52, has been the former police chief of Chongqing, a western metropolis governed by Bo Xilai, a Communist Party high flier hoping to rise higher. After a falling out with Bo during which he was removed from his job, Wang drove to the United States Consulate in Chengdu and blew the whistle on the murder of a British businessman, Neil Heywood, by Bo's wife, Gu Kailai.

With his cooperation in bringing down Gu Kailai, Wang received a reduced sentence on the charge of “bending the law for personal interest” instead of the death penalty he could have faced for the charges that were laid against him.

A cartoonist Kuang Biao from Sina Weibo highlighted the slap on Wang Lijun's face with Photoshop.

A cartoonist Kuang Biao from Sina Weibo highlighted the slap on Wang Lijun's face with Photoshop.

The slap that changed history

In the official account of Wang's trial, there was still no mention of how the conflict between Wang and Bo's family started and when it aggregated.

Yet, a slap in the face that Bo give Wang when confronted with the allegation about the murder of Heywood by Gu Kailai was brought to the spotlight and ridiculed by many netizens as “a slap that changed history” [zh]:

@炎黄胄裔  一个耳光改变了中国历史的进程,使中国免于重新走向文革,从这个意义上来说,护士长这个耳光真是太伟大了。

@炎黄胄裔: The slap changed China’s history and prevented China from heading to another Culture Revolution. To some extent, the slap in Wang’s face was significant.

雁山云江 compared [zh] the effects of the slap with the “Butterfly Effect“:

从“蝴蝶效应”到“耳光效应”,这巴掌真是法力无边啊,从太平洋西岸刮到东岸。

@雁山云江: Forget about Butterfly Effects, we now have Slap Effects – a slap shacked the whole world.

Hu Shuli, editor in chief of the business magazine Caixin, commented on the drama with words from Chinese philosopher Mencius in her Weibo [zh]:

君视臣如草芥,则臣视君如寇仇。

If the monarch considers his subject worthless,  the subject takes the monarch as his enemy.

A new saying regarding the significant of the slap has been circulated around social media by netizens such as @P民报2012, @免费长沙, @柴米有言在先 and many others:

一个巴掌就算改变不了历史,也会改变一个方向

Even if a slap cannot change the history, it can at least change the direction of the history.

Wang Lijun's fear

Several netizens have taken a step further by asking what's wrong with the political and legal system in China. On a famous online forum, KDnet, user zxb_yiran tries [zh] to explain the origin of Wang Lijun's fear:

一个直辖市的公安局长,手上掌握了国家所赋予的执法大权,却敢于在得知有人杀人后,安排部下为其掩饰并在毁尸灭迹后,还主动打电话向杀人犯报告说“化作青烟,驾鹤西去“。法律在一个颇有地位的执法者心中完全成为了私人关系中被可以随意践踏的玩物。这样的人是如何成为执法者的?如果他曾经是一个法律的捍卫者,那么,他又是如何变成了一个践踏法律的人的?……因为百思不得其解,所以就产生恐惧。原来,行使了多年的社会管理机制和机构竟然管不了高级别的官员犯罪。

The police chief of a metropolis should be endowed with the power of law enforcement by the country. However, he plotted with Gu Kailai and dared to cover up for Gu's murder brazenly. As a high-status law enforcement personnel, he himself is trampling on the law. How can he be an officer of law enforcement. What transformed him from a law protector to a lawbreaker? …… The fear comes from the doubts. It drives the social management system home to me and I come to realize that the high-status officials’ crime is simply not bound by the system.

Blogger Wang Jian's post [zh] “Wang Lijun's Fear is the Same as Our Fear”, which has been spread around the social media, delivered a similar message:

王立军的恐惧,正是我们的恐惧,政改不走,民主宪政不推行,重庆事件无法断根。大家醒醒吧!

Wang Lijun's fear is exactly our fear. If the party still refuse to carry out the political reform and the democracy constitution, it is hard to say whether the Chongqing scandal will repeat. Wake up!

The fate of Bo Xilai

Wang Lijun's verdict moved the party closer to a formal decision on dealing with Bo Xilai. As China's ruling party is expecting the once-a-decade leadership handover at the party congress as early as next month, it must now decide whether Bo will face charges and what his future political career may be.

Given the fact that Bo's name was rarely brought up in his wife's and Wang Lijun's verdicts, speculators suggest that Bo may be treated leniently, possibly avoiding a criminal trial altogether and only undergoing a Communist Party disciplinary procedure.

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