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Bo Xilai: China's fallen political star
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Sept 28, 2012

Bo ouster shows unity in China party: state media
Beijing (AFP) Sept 29, 2012 - China's Communist Party has put on a forceful display of unity by expelling Bo Xilai, state media said Saturday, but web users denounced the case as a sign of deep-rooted corruption plaguing the ruling party.

China said Friday that the disgraced politician at the centre of a scandal that rocked the party ahead of a once-a-decade leadership transition will "face justice" for crimes including abuse of power and improper sexual relations.

It was an unprecedented harsh public rebuke for a Chinese Communist official as authorities looked to lay to rest the damaging episode that shocked China and saw Bo's wife convicted of murder.

The decision "demonstrates the ability of the Chinese communist party's central committee to reach a consensus on major issues", a commentary in the state-run Global Times daily said.

"The decisions once again prove the certainty of Chinese politics," it added.

The comments come after widespread speculation that the party was seriously divided over how to handle the case of Bo, the party boss of southwestern Chongqing city seen as a candidate for promotion to the party's top echelons.

China's official Xinhua news agency framed Bo's criminal trial as a warning to Communist party officials to "obey party discipline", a phrase which implies keeping consensus with decisions issued by China's top-leaders.

"Bo Xilai, as a high-level official should be a model of protection of party discipline, and strictly carry out the orders of the central committee," Xinhua said.

"Party leader-level officials should... be cautious in the face of party discipline, cautious, and again cautious, not to step over the line," it added.

But commentators on Sina Weibo -- a social media platform similar to Twitter -- said that the accusations against Bo highlight the communist party's persistent failure to root-out corruption.

"The announcement says that over 20 years of breaking the rules Bo was constantly promoted. Doesn't that show that the party has no clear system for dealing with corruption?" said one Weibo user.

"Bo stands accused of making errors in promoting staff, but he himself was consistently promoted despite his accumulation of crimes. Who really made the errors?" wrote another Weibo user.

Friday's announcement now likely sets the stage for what will be a highly anticipated yet secretive closed-door trial for Bo as the Communist Party gears up for a pivotal congress to select its new leadership on November 8.

Xinhua said that Bo, who had been a member of the powerful Politburo, was stripped of his party membership and positions, a step that in China clears the way for wayward Communist officials to be formally prosecuted.

Once a rising political star famous for busting gangs and reviving Maoist ideals, China's Bo Xilai suffered a dramatic fall from grace that on Friday saw authorities announce he would "face justice" on a range of charges.

The charismatic 63-year-old had been tipped for promotion to China's top decision-making body before a key aide fled to a US consulate in February with the explosive claim that Bo's wife had murdered a British businessman.

That set off a cascade of events that led to a murder conviction for his wife Gu Kailai and the jailing of his aide Wang Lijun for attempting to cover up the crime.

China announced in April that Bo had been suspended from the Communist Party's powerful 25-member Politburo and placed under investigation for violating party discipline -- usually code for corruption -- but his exact fate remained unknown.

But that now appears sealed with Friday's announcement by the official Xinhua news agency that he has been stripped of his party membership and would face charges over allegations including abuse of power and corruption.

Bo will next likely face a highly anticipated trial and verdict likely to end in a jail sentence for the one-time leader.

Bo, a former commerce minister, was known for his suave and open demeanour, which was seen as refreshing in a country where leaders are often rigid and emotionless in public.

But his open lobbying for promotion coupled with his "princeling" status as the son of a hero of China's revolution irritated some fellow politicians.

"He's very open, very confident, very charismatic and that's not the way most Chinese leaders behave and that is not the way they feel comfortable with their peers behaving," said Patrick Chovanec, a professor at Tsinghua University.

Bo's revival of "red" culture in the southwestern municipality of Chongqing -- including sending officials to work in the countryside and pushing workers to sing revolutionary songs -- drew both accolades and concern.

He also set about fighting graft when he came to power in Chongqing, in a crackdown that saw scores of officials detained and executed, their lurid secret lives exposed.

But behind Bo's smiling demeanour lurked the tragedy of his teens during the Cultural Revolution, a decade of deadly chaos launched by Mao Zedong in which students turned on teachers and officials were purged.

His father Bo Yibo was a revolutionary who fell from grace and was imprisoned and tortured during the turbulent period. His mother was beaten to death and Bo Xilai himself spent time in a labour camp.

But when Mao died and reformist leader Deng Xiaoping took over, Bo Yibo was rehabilitated and became one of the most powerful men in China, bestowing on his son an impeccable family pedigree that long protected him.

Bo took a master's degree in journalism -- an educational background that stands out in the crowd of engineers and scientists who make up China's political elite.

For nearly two decades from 1985, he was based in China's northeastern rustbelt, first as mayor of Dalian, a decaying port city that he is credited with transforming into a modern investment hub.

He then became governor of Liaoning province, where Dalian is located, and in 2004 entered the Beijing limelight as China's commerce minister, dazzling foreign counterparts with his modern, can-do attitude.

"He was a reformer and wanted to see things change," said David Zweig, a Chinese politics expert at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

During that time, Bo hosted many foreign visitors including EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, with whom he appeared to be on genuinely friendly terms.

Outside observers said his move to Chongqing, a metropolis of more than 30 million people, would propel him out of the limelight, but his anti-mafia and Maoist revival campaigns proved them wrong.

However, those who had praised Bo as relatively liberal soon grew disillusioned -- particularly with his corruption crackdown, which many say was carried out with contempt for the law.

Bo is thought to have spent the last few months under house arrest as the drama involving his wife Gu's murder of British business Neil Heywood played out, ending in a conviction in August.


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