Saturday, October 26, 2013

Club Red

Prison guard or concierge?

Now that Bo Xilai’s conviction has been confirmed with the rejection of his final appeal (to no one’s surprise), full attention can turn to examining his fate. Exactly how much of his life sentence will be behind bars is yet to be seen. It’s not unheard of that some political prisoners are released for “medical” or other reasons after only serving a few years, to live out the rest of their years retired by a placid body of water.

It’s also noteworthy to consider what conditions he will be subjected to during the years of his incarceration. Very likely, he will spend his time in Qincheng Prison, an elite correctional compound somewhere in the hills outside of Beijing. As this news article on Qincheng prison details, the place has a section reserved for elite political prisoners that is akin to the “Club Fed” network that exists in the US to house high-profile white collar criminals. Mind you, white collar criminals may not deserve to be locked up together with mass murderers, rapists and hardened violent criminals who can make dropping a bar of soap in the communal shower a life-debilitating event. However, it’s worthwhile to debate the fairness of the relatively cushy conditions of places such as “Club Qincheng”, which some observers joke is like a five star hotel.
According to second hand reports, Qincheng provides its VIP guests, er inmates, with the following amenities:
- large private cells (215 square feet) with soft bed, sofa, desk and en-suite bathroom.
- prison guards who provide “warmth and care”
- choice of clothes chosen by loved ones at home
- jail chefs that used to work in top Beijing hotels or for “ministry chief level” officials
- milk for breakfast, choice of meat and soup, an apple as dessert
- view of “pavilions, trees and grass reminiscent of a Chinese garden”
- a plot of land to grow vegetables
- TV privileges between 2 pm and 9 pm daily
- walks in the open air six times a week
Another source of spiritual comfort for Mr. Bo is that he follows in a line of prisoners who have shared political values and beliefs akin to his own, including his father Bo Yibo and Mao’s widow Jiang Qing. So in this respect, perhaps this sentence is more than simply a long period of reflection and remediation. It may even feel like a homecoming.

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