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    Greater China
     Oct 3, 2012

Curtain not down on Bo Xilai scandal
By Wu Zhong, China Editor

HONG KONG - The announcement on Friday evening by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that it was expelling former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai and handing him over for prosecution, together with the date for the convention of its 18th National Congress, was quite within expectations, but unconventional nonetheless.

Given his Politburo membership (though suspended), his expulsion from the party should have been a decision of the CCP's Central Committee. However, the decision was made by the Politburo in a meeting on September 28 and will be presented to the last plenum of the current Central Committee, to be held on


November 1, for retroactive endorsement, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency.

While the Politburo also decided to remove Bo from public office in accordance with the country's Law on Public Servants, there was no mention of whether he had been deprived of his membership in the National People's Congress, China's parliament. Such a decision must be made by the NPC, not the CCP. According to Chinese law, an NPC member is immune to legal prosecution.

The Politburo meeting on Friday also decided that the CCP's 18th National Congress would be convened on November 8 in Beijing. But this decision will also have to be rubber-stamped by the Central Committee plenum. This is also unconventional. According to tradition, the date for the convention of a party congress is to be announced by a plenum of the Central Committee, not the Politburo.

All this strongly suggests that the CCP is eager to clear the air before it opens the congress. Bo would otherwise have remained a heavy, dark cloud continuing to spark much speculation in the run-up to its convention. Rumors about an intensified power struggle at the top have been rife since Bo was pulled down in late March. If his case had not been settled before the congress convened, it would surely have remained the focus of attention overshadowing the agenda of the party meeting.

It is also evident that President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao are duty-bound to clean house before they pass down the torch of leadership to their successors at the congress.

Friday's announcement sets the stage for a highly anticipated trial for Bo, though it will likely be held long after the party meeting, as legal procedure takes much time.

The timing of the announcement is also very interesting. It was made on Friday evening, shortly before the start of an eight-day holiday for the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day, when people would travel or relax and pay little attention to politics. This could have minimized the sudden shock of publicizing the results of the initial investigation of Bo, which are indeed quite shocking. When people come back to work on October 8, it will have become old news.

According to Xinhua, Bo's "violation of party disciplines" (read as corruption and/or abuse of power) could be traced back to early 1990s when he was mayor of Dalian city in the northeastern province of Liaoning, and in all of his other offices afterward. [1]

Investigations found that Bo seriously violated party discipline while heading the city of Dalian and at the Ministry of Commerce and while serving as a member of the Political Bureau of the CCP Central Committee and as party chief of Chongqing municipality, Xinhua reports.

Bo abused his power, made severe mistakes and bore major responsibility in the incident involving former Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun and the intentional homicide case involving Bogu Kailai, or Gu Xilai, his wife.

He took advantage of his office to seek profits for others and received huge bribes personally and through his family. His position was also abused by his wife to seek profits for others, and the Bo family accepted a huge amount of money and property from others.

He was also found to have violated organizational and personnel discipline and made erroneous decisions in the promotion of personnel, resulting in serious consequences, the agency said.

As such, Bo's suspected offenses are much more serious than previously reported or speculated. Not only is he held responsible for his wife's murder of British businessman Neil Heywood and the defection of Wang Lijun to the US Consulate in Chengdu, provincial capital of Sichuan, but he is also charged with personally taking a huge amount of bribes and maintaining "improper sexual relationships with a number of women". Even worse, he is suspected to have been involved "in other crimes". If convicted, he could face the death penalty or at least life imprisonment. In short, the 63-year-old ambitious politician is finished, period.

But for the CCP, the damage caused by Bo's scandals is severe. It will take much time and arduous efforts to heal the wounds. As Xinhua put it, "Bo Xilai's behavior created serious negative consequences, seriously damaged the party and the country's reputation in China and abroad, created an extremely negative result, and created huge losses for the party and the Chinese people."

While the CCP and its propaganda apparatus can righteously claim that Bo's downfall shows the party's determination to deal with corruption, it may have to face questions arising from the Friday announcement.

How did Bo's evil deeds remain uncovered for such a long time - some 20 years - while in the meantime he received quick promotions one after another, ultimately to become one of the 25 members of the Politburo? How could he have run Chongqing like an "independent kingdom", wantonly doing what he wanted to do without being questioned, let alone stopped?

And without Wang's attempted defection, which led to the exposure of Bo's scandals, he might have had a big chance to move up another rung of the official hierarchy to become a member of the new Politburo Standing Committee as a party and state leader. What kind of a country would China become if ruled by people like Bo?

No doubt, Bo's case exposes a big loophole in the CCP's internal supervision system, which must be plugged. There is a Chinese saying, "It is not too late to mend the fold even after some of the sheep have been lost." The CCP now owes the public an explanation of whether and how it will make the improvement.

1. Click here for the full text of the Xinhua report.

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