BEIJING – A supporter of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai said Sunday that she has set up a new political party and named the imprisoned former official its chairman, a move that poses personal risk for her but little threat to the Communist Party.
Wang Zheng said in a phone interview that the Zhi Xian Party was established last Wednesday in Beijing with the objective of bringing “common prosperity” — a fairer distribution of wealth — to China. The name of the party roughly translates to “supreme authority of the constitution.”
Wang, a Beijing-based lecturer, said she wrote letters to Bo about her plan to start the party but named him chairman without his express consent. She also refused to provide more details about the party’s membership except saying indirectly that there were at least a dozen members.
“I can only tell you that we have more members than the number of people who attended the Communist Party’s first congress after it was established,” Wang said. Twelve deputies attended the Communist Party’s first congress in Shanghai in 1921.
China allows a small number of officially recognized alternative parties, although they serve as advisers rather than competitors to the ruling Communist Party. People have been jailed for setting up and participating in other political parties, mostly on charges of subverting state power.
The appeal of Wang’s party appears limited, with several prominent Maoist commentators saying in interviews that they were not members of the party and had not even heard about it. Discussions about the new party on leftist websites which have been supportive of Bo ranged from expressing skepticism about the new party to questioning whether Wang had the right to appoint Bo as chair of the party without his permission.
Wang provided the contact for one of the party’s members, Xu Hua, a man in the southeastern city of Wuxi, who said party members have not met in person but have held discussions on email and a popular Chinese mobile messaging application.
Wang represents the type of residual support that Bo still has among those who have been angered by economic reforms over the past three decades that have entrenched a new elite while leaving out others. Wang said the party seeks to protect the state’s ownership of key sectors and share wealth with the poor.
Bo, the former party boss in Chongqing, was convicted in September of embezzlement, bribery and abuse of power and sentenced to life in prison. His social policies earned him a limited popularity mostly among the region’s farmers and low-paid workers.