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CHONGQING - As dusk falls on Chongqing, the People's Square at the heart of this mega-city on the Yangtze springs to life.
People gather in crowds to dance, sing, drink tea, chat or sit idly under leafy banyan trees. Heavily-shaded, the square is more like the parks found in other Chinese cities, offering a haven for people to relax and socialize, even in the steamy summer months.
Wu Xiaoquan, a 62-year-old retiree, is a Chongqing native and a member of an elderly singing troupe that meets at the square four afternoons a week to sing old songs.
The lively scene exists just a stone's throw away from the imposing municipal government building.
"We were shocked to learn the recent big news, but it does not seem to have affected our gatherings. We still sing on," Wu said.
Wu is referring to a flurry of events surrounding the city's former top official, Bo Xilai.
On March 15, the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee appointed Vice-Premier Zhang Dejiang to replace Bo as secretary of the CPC Chongqing Municipal Committee.
On April 10, the CPC Central Committee said that considering Bo had allegedly committed serious discipline violations, it decided to suspend Bo from his posts at the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau and the CPC Central Committee.
Bo, who once served as the country's commerce minister, was appointed Chongqing's Party chief in December 2007. He is the latest high-ranking official to fall from the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau, preceded by former Beijing Party chief Chen Xitong and former Shanghai Party chief Chen Liangyu over the past two decades.
The explosive news has been the talk of the People's Square.
"Whether it was Bo or his wife, whoever commits crimes should be dealt with in accordance with the law, without exception," said Wu, who, like many others his age, lived through the tumultuous decade of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), a time marked by rampant lawless purges and attacks.
"The rule of law should be upheld. No one is special and above the law. If the system was replaced by rule of man, the country would descend into turmoil again," he lamented.
Professor Xie Chuntao of the Party School of the CPC Central Committee said the cases of Bo Xilai, Neil Heywood and Wang Lijun received great attention at home and abroad. Because a high-ranking official was implicated and it happened at a sensitive time, the cases, if not handled properly, may lead the public to doubt the CPC's resolution to uphold the rule of law and could result in social disturbances.
Last week, protests and clashes with police broke out in the Wansheng Economic Development Zone located in the Qijiang district of suburban Chongqing. But the protests were not linked to Bo's investigation or Wang's case, a government spokesman told reporters on April 12, a day after senior Chongqing officials intervened to end the two-day disturbance.
Residents of Wansheng were protesting against their district being merged into Qijiang -- a move they feared could result in losses in hospitality business opportunities and a cut in health insurance benefits, among other concerns, the spokesman said.
Protesters eventually went home, content with the measures the government offered to ease their concerns.
Aside from that brief clash, Chongqing has largely been peaceful and orderly since last Tuesday. People sang and danced at the People's Square as usual, and life has gone on.