Authorities in Beijing forced the cancellation yesterday of a major conference on legal protection for private industry amid heightened sensitivity over the country’s biggest political scandal in years, organisers said.
A leading Beijing lawyer said legal authorities in the capital called him yesterday to demand the two-day event to be held in a hotel in the western city of Xian be called off. The conference had been expected to draw as many as 400 lawyers, academics, economists, and leading entrepreneurs, said the lawyer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
“This conference was too much for them,” said the lawyer, who declined to reveal specifically which officials had called him. Other lawyers listed as participating also said authorities had ordered it cancelled, but asked that they and their firms not be identified by name.
The cancellation comes just weeks after one of China‘s most powerful politicians, Bo Xilai , was suspended from the Communist Party’s Politburo following an attempted defection by one of his former top aides, who is now in the custody of state investigators.
Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai , and a family helper were at the same time named as suspects in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, who was discovered dead in his room at a secluded mountaintop hotel on the outskirts of the mega-city of Chongqing , where Bo had reined supreme since 2007.
The party has not named what malfeasance Bo is suspected of, although there have been numerous unconfirmed reports of corruption and abuse of authority. Bo is also accused by legal scholars of violating human rights and ignoring legal procedure in ordering a crackdown on organised crime that targeted property developers and other private businessmen.
The lawyers for some of those convicted in the crackdown were scheduled to attend the Xian conference, possibly triggering the order to cancel.
They have complained that their clients were tortured into confessing to crimes they did not commit and their assets seized illegally and divided among Chongqing officials.
Bo’s sacking and possible prosecution has set off a wave of speculation over the political future of high-ranking communist allies ahead of a once-in-a-generation transfer of power to a new generation of leaders this autumn