Zhang Weijie was a former news anchor for Dalian TV. (Internet photo)
One of the displays in Body Worlds, a world famous exhibit showcasing the parts of the human body through plastinated, preserved corpses, has struck a number of internet users in China as being somewhat unusual, even familiar.
Netizens suspect a body of a pregnant woman in the current display might belong to Zhang Weijie, a former mistress of the disgraced politician Bo Xilai and a well-known anchor of Dalian Television who went missing, according to Boxun, a Chinese-language citizen journalism website which often makes claims that are difficult to prove.
Zhang was reported to be Bo Xilai's mistress in 1998 and she openly challenged Bo's wife Gu Kailai after she was found to be pregnant. Gu, who was reportedly trying to bring down the news anchor from behind the scenes, eventually called upon national and public security forces to threaten Zhang into leaving her job. After she left television, Zhang took to petitioning against Gu until she fell into a state of hysteria.
She was secretly detained at the Dalian Nanshan Hotel and reportedly attempted suicide several times, Boxun said, adding that she later disappeared and nobody has known her whereabouts ever since.
Some netizens have suggested that the pregnant woman's body at the Body Worlds exhibition resembles Zhang in the shape of the skull and the near mature fetus inside the body seems not to be the result of an abortion.
Internet forums have been directing posts at the Von Hagens Plastination Co in Dalian, questioning their legal use of the bodies in the exhibit. Some suggested that it was Bo who approved the company's registration when he was mayor of Dalian in 1999, and the bodies used are all from the city in northeastern China.
Some suspect that Gunther von Hagens, the founder of the company, had a special connection with Bo, but Rurik von Hagens, Gunther's son, said their family has neither a private nor a business relationship with the former mayor.
According to Boxun, under the company's regulations, when dealing with the bodies, the facial characteristics of the bodies are kept confidential, making it impossible to identify who is in the display. Netizens have also suspected that the company may have been set up in Dalian because China does not have any laws against the processing and exporting of corpses.
Bo Xilai was seen as a rising star in Chinese politics until his dramatic downfall earlier this year when reports of his wife's murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, formerly a close friend of the family, came to light. Bo was dismissed as Chongqing party chief and suspended from his senior party posts pending investigation into his "serious disciplinary violations." Gu Kailai on Monday was given a suspended death sentence for the intentional homicide of Heywood.
Bo Xilai 薄熙來
Zhang Weijie 張偉杰
Gu Kailai 谷開來
Editor's note: On August 29, 2012, Want China Times received a letter from lawyers representing von Hagen's plastination firm denying that it had displayed the plastinated body of Zhang Weijie and demanding a retraction. Want China Times' response can be found here: http://goo.gl/BfX5M
This article has also been edited from its original version to better reflect the sources of the allegations.