Thursday, December 3, 2009

Why Has Chongqing Mayor Wang Hongju Resigned?

Today the headline on's Chongqing page is "Wang Hongju resigns as the mayor of Chongqing." This is big news, but the one-sentence ambiguous official report raises many questions. Another report cites "age reason." Singapore's Zaobao notes that Chongqing's many newspapers, with the exception of Chongqing Daily, made no mention of the news, and the fact that, at 64, Wang is one year short of the retirement age for officials with his rank. A Chinese blogger calls the news "shocking" and comments on the resignation's abnormality and possible relation to Chongqing's crack-down on organized crime.

I find myself only partially surprised by the news. In recent years when I made my annual visits to Chongqing, every time I heard local people bitterly complaining about how incompetent their mayor was (which was in sharp contrast to their praise of Bo Xilai), yet year after year Wang Hongju remained steadily seated on the mayor pedestal of China's biggest metropolitan city.

Before coming to Chonqgqing, Wang was the mayor of a small county-level town, Fuling (remember Peter Hessler's River Town?).  In 1997, while over a million unhappy people from the flooded areas by the Three Gorges dam (including part of Fuling) were forced to relocate, and Fuling was merged into Chongqing's jurisdiction, Wang happily took a great-leap to the high position of Chongqing's deputy mayor. Six years later he became the mayor. As far as I can tell, Wang's unusual promotion was another twist resulting from the ill-conceived Three Gorges dam and its consequent jurisdictional politics. Rumors had it that Wang brought a full "Fuling gang" to Chongqing with him to put in various key positions of the city government, something not at all unusual in the crony politics of China's officialdom.

At this point it is hard to say if Wang's stepping-down has anything to do with Chongqing's organized crime. In any case, I think it is a good thing and hope my townsfolk will be better off under his replacement.

No comments: