The Communist Party of China's Central Committee on Sunday endorsed a decision made by the Polit Bureau in September to expel the disgraced former Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai, paving the way for his criminal prosecution on charges of corruption and abuse of power.
The 365 members of the 17th Central Committee concluded their last meeting in Beijing before the leadership transition Congress begins on Thursday. The 18th Party Congress will appoint a new Central Committee, which will subsequently choose the party's next Polit Bureau Standing Committee — its highest authority.
The four-day meeting of the Central Committee was a formality to endorse the Polit Bureau's decisions before the Congress, which will herald a sweeping, once-in-ten-year leadership change across the party, military and governme nt.
The State-run Xinhua news agency reported the Central Committee meeting reviewed and approved an internal investigation into Mr. Bo which found he had "seriously violated CPC disciplines" and "abused his power". It suggested Mr. Bo "bore major responsibility" for the intentional homicide case involving his wife Gu Kailai, who was found guilty of poisoning British businessman and Bo family associate Neil Heywood.
Ms. Gu was given a suspended death sentence, with a two-year reprieve, in August. Mr. Bo was removed from the National People's Congress, or Parliament, in October — a move that stripped him of immunity from criminal prosecution. The CPC said his case has been handed over to judicial authorities, paving the way for his trial.
The meeting also approved the Polit Bureau's sacking of former Railways Minister Liu Zhijun on corruption changes, and announced the appointment of two new Vice-Chairmen to the Central Military Commission (CMC), the top military body.
General Fan Changlong, who is in charge of the Jinan Military Region, and Air Force General Xu Qiliang were appointed as Vice-Chairmen to the body, which is chaired by CPC General Secretary Hu Jintao. Mr. Hu's anointed successor, Xi Jinping, is also a Vice-Chairman of the CMC.
Mr. Xi will take over Mr. Hu's position as party general secretary following the Congress, and will assume the role of President at next March's session of parliament. It remains unclear, however, if Mr. Hu will relinquish his role as head of the CMC — his predecessor Jiang Zemin held on to the post for two years and appointed his allies to ensure his continuing influence over the military.
In recent months, Mr. Hu has followed suit, ensuring the appointment of Generals close to him to the CMC — which is the People's Liberation Army's highest authority — leaving unclear how much influence on the military Mr. Xi will wield when he takes office this year. Fang Fenghui, declared the new Chief of General Staff of the PLA on October 25, 2012 is a General seen as close to Mr. Hu and is also likely to be appointed to the CMC following the Congress.