With a population of 32 million, Chongqing in inland China is one of the world’s megalopolises, ahead of Tokyo or Mumbai. It is also a startling economic success, with a growth reported to be 15%, way above the national average. But among the poorer inhabitants of Chongqin, some regret the days of governor Bo Xilai, who had put into effect generous spending programmes before falling from grace and going on trial.
Huang Ge is a poster boy for the mega-city of Chongqing, in China. At the age of 30, he has already made a fortune in finance and rents a whole suite in a luxury hotel as an office. “Chongqing is a city where you can make your dreams come true,” he says, praising the city government for encouraging enterprise.
Now it’s all about business, but two years ago, it was politics: Bo Xilai, then local leader of the Communist Party, had started a campaign to mobilise the masses, with songs to the glory of Mao, like in the days of the Cultural Revolution. But the name of Bo Xilai has become taboo, now that he has fallen from grace, and is standing trial for corruption.
Yet his legacy is present. He fought the mafia, but also repressed political opponents. Fang Hong, a former forest ranger, recalls how he was sent to labour camp for a year for posting a message critical of Bo Xilai online. “I showed the world how bad the human rights situation was in China,” he says.
But others have fonder memories of the former governor, who also oversaw the construction of social housing and other generous programmes. There is even a clandestine network of nostalgic Maoists, who believe Bo Xilai’s measures to “improve the life of the people” have been destroyed.