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Also revealing was the not-so-subtle rebuke of the Politburo’s ostentatious law-and-order pretense of the Bo Xilai affair, which appeared in party’s official newspaper, Global Times. The paper now appears to be a bastion of neo-Maoism.

Hu Xijin, the paper’s editor-in-chief, is widely known in China as a Bo stalwart and defender.

The Politburo’s Bo indictment, made public Sept. 28, was published verbatim in Global Times, as expected, but directly beneath the announcement were eight emoticons that invited readers to express reactions to the charges.

Of 7,500 reactions, Global Times recorded close to 6,000, or 80 percent, as “Laughable,” indicating the responder disagreed with the party’s verdict. Just 3 percent clicked the “Happy or Delighted” button, signaling approval.

On Oct. 1, Global Times ran an article from the rabidly anti-Bo newspaper Guangzhou Ribao in the southern province of Guangdong.

The headline read: “The Cadres and the Masses Resolutely Support the Politburo’s Decisions on Bo Xilai.”

Again, the emoticons in the Global Times indicated 75 percent of the readers dismissed the article as “Laughable,” while 22 percent said they were “Angry,” albeit without the ability to name the target of their anger.

By far the most daring challenge to the Politburo’s Bo verdict came from China’s highest-ranking forensics expert, Wang Xuemei of the Chinese Supreme People’s Procuratorate, China’s highest prosecution authority.

Born in 1956 in North Korea, China’s communist ally, where her parents were stationed as Chinese army officers, Ms. Wang rose quickly after graduating from college to assume the important post of leading forensics expert. If anyone should be considered a member of the ruling elite class, she certainly qualifies.

Last week, however, Ms. Wang dropped a bombshell by publicly challenging the Politburo’s official verdict on the Bo case, passionately advancing her theory through her blog, in the British newspaper Guardian and in The Wall Street Journal.

Ms. Wang challenged the official finding that cyanide poisoning had killed the British businessman, Neil Heywood.

She then laid all the blame for his death on Wang Lijun, the former Chongqing police chief who launched the entire case after he attempted to defect to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu. According to Ms. Wang, the forensics expert, the police official had mastered the art of mind control over Mr. Bo’s wife.

The sensational claim triggered an explosion of cheers from China’s neo-Maoist faction in China. If Wang Lijun was to blame, then Mr. Bo had nothing to do with his wife’s trouble with the law and had been made a scapegoat by central authorities.

Despite all the subtle and unsubtle challenges from China’s neo-Maoists, the party continues to show signs it is in deep paralysis in the run-up to a major power reshuffle set for early next month, which could determine how China will ever march forward politically without eradicating Maoism and its potentially destabilizing effects.

Miles Yu’s column appears Thursdays. He can be reached at