China clears way for Bo prosecution

2012-10-26 07:51

Beijing - Disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai has been expelled from the country's parliament and stripped of his legal immunity, clearing the way for his prosecution, state media said on Friday.

The announcement follows intense speculation on the fate of the former party boss of the south-western city of Chongqing in the lead-up to a once-in-a-decade leadership transition set to begin on 8 November.

State news agency Xinhua said the Standing Committee of the 11th National People's Congress (NPC) removed Bo from his post late last month, but made the announcement only on Friday at a bi-monthly session.

"According to the law on the deputies to NPC and to local people's congresses, his post was terminated," Xinhua said, quoting a statement from the standing committee at the end of a four-day meeting.

The focus will now shift to when Bo will face trial for a litany of alleged crimes, with most commentators suggesting the court case will be after the Communist Party Congress next month at which new leaders will be selected.

Bo's expulsion from the NPC comes after he was thrown out of the Communist Party last month, when state media announced he would "face justice" for alleged abuse of power, taking bribes and improper sexual relations.

Lengthy prison sentence

This was seen as an unprecedented public rebuke for a senior Chinese party official as authorities looked to lay to rest a damaging episode that shocked China and saw Bo's wife convicted of murder.

Bo, the party boss of the south-western metropolis of Chongqing, had been seen as a candidate for promotion to the party's top echelons.

But he was brought down earlier this year by murder allegations against his wife Gu Kailai that came to light when Bo's key aide and police chief Wang Lijun sought refuge in the US consulate and detailed a string of alleged crimes.

The charges against Bo look likely to result in a lengthy prison sentence, political analysts say.

His wife was handed a suspended death sentence - commonly commuted to a life sentence - for fatally poisoning British businessman Neil Heywood.

Bo was earlier removed from his Chongqing post, with analysts saying the affair exposed deep divisions within the party as he retains a large following among left-leaning members.

In response to the opening of the NPC meeting this week, hundreds of Bo's supporters urged the parliament in an online petition not to expose him to a potentially unfair trial.

"The entire trial involving the Bo case has the problems of facts that are unclear, evidence that is neither reliable nor adequate and procedures that are not lawful," the letter on the leftist Red China website said.

There were more than 500 signatories in support of Bo, who had championed a "red revival" before his downfall.

Affluent lifestyles

The Communists had hoped for a smooth build-up to a congress that is tightly scripted to underline the party's claim to be the only legitimate force capable of ruling the world's most populous nation.

But the party has instead been rocked by the Bo case and the details of murder, million-dollar deals and the affluent lifestyles of the Communist Party power elite that it laid bare.

A New York Times investigation published on Thursday alleged that Prime Minister Wen Jiabao's family had invested in assets worth at least $2.7bn from 1992-2012, according to corporate and regulatory records.

The congress typically lasts about one week, and ends with the traditional unveiling of a new Politburo line-up that this year is expected to see Vice President Xi Jinping promoted to Communist Party general-secretary.

Wen last month called for his people to unite in support of the Communist Party and its outgoing leader, President Hu Jintao.