Leadership transition Congress scheduled for November 8

Suspended Politburo member and former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai has been expelled from the Communist Party of China (CPC) ahead of a once-in-a-decade leadership transition meeting to be held on November 8.

The CPC’s 24-member Politburo decided on Friday to hand over Mr. Bo’s case to judicial authorities. This means the once-powerful Chongqing secretary will stand trial in coming months and will likely face a lengthy imprisonment after being charged with a range of crimes by the party’s internal disciplinary body.

‘Discipline violated’

The official Xinhua news agency said the Politburo had accepted the findings of an investigation which found Mr. Bo had “seriously violated party disciplines”. He was accused of taking advantage of his office to receive “huge bribes” for himself and his family.

The Politburo also decided to convene the 18th Party Congress on November 8, ending weeks of anticipation about the crucial meeting which will formalise China’s next leadership line-up.

The case of Mr. Bo — mired in a scandal following the murder of British businessman and Bo family associate Neil Heywood — had presented the Party with an unexpected challenge just months before the transition. Mr. Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, was on August 20 given a suspended death sentence for the murder of Heywood.

The two previous Politburo members to be expelled from the Party over corruption charges and amid factional infighting were sentenced to jail terms of 16 and 18 years.

Strong words

The strongly worded statement from the Politburo suggested Mr. Bo may face a stiffer punishment. Mr. Bo had “badly undermined” the reputation of the party and the country, the Politburo said, calling on all levels of the party to use his “negative example” to fight corruption.

‘Position abused’

Listing a range of professional, financial and moral crimes, the Politburo said he was found to have “violated organisational and personnel disciplines”. His position was “abused” by his wife and family to seek profits and property, the statement said, adding that he also maintained improper sexual relationships with many women.

In Chongqing, the sprawling metropolis on the Yangtze river where Mr. Bo was a popular Party chief for five years, his expulsion has been seen by many as having little to do with corruption.

“Is there any leader in China who hasn’t taken bribes or isn’t corrupt?” asked a Chongqing taxi-driver. “Bo Xilai did a lot for the people in Chongqing. It’s all about politics”.

Bigger crime

Mr. Bo’s bigger crime, said one Chongqing scholar, was breaking unwritten party rules and challenging the authority of the Central government by promoting himself as a populist candidate for the Standing Committee.

Mr. Bo’s trumpeting of his welfare-focused “Chongqing model”, which, the scholar said, was built on financial support from the Central government, “angered Beijing”.

He pointed out that Mr. Bo’s successor in this municipality, Zhang Dejiang, had contrastingly stressed the authority of the Central government in every meeting. “Zhang has even said there is no Chongqing model,” the scholar said.

Mr. Zhang is expected to be promoted to the next Standing Committee — likely to comprise seven members and headed by Vice-President Xi Jinping — at the November Congress, while Mr. Bo faces charges that could land him in prison.

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