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China's Politburo expels Bo Xilai, slates criminal charges

Chinese state media say the senior politician Bo Xilai has been expelled from the Communist party and will face multiple charges. This is the move in what is seen as a fierce power struggle in the Chinese leadership.

epa03137770 China's Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai is seen during a plenary session at the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China 09 March 2012. China's annual National People's Congress session is clouded by a political scandal over Bo's aide fleeing to a US consulate for asylum, leading to speculation over Bo's future in the next central leadership at the 18th Party Congress later this year. EPA/HOW HWEE YOUNG +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

Bo Xilai chinesischer Politiker

Bo had been a candidate for top office until caught in one of China's biggest scandals in decades involving his wife Gu Kailai. She and a police chief were jailed and sentenced recently over the murder of a British businessman last November.

No legal action has yet been taken against Bo but on Friday the official Chinese news agency Xinhua said Bo would "face justice" for alleged abuse of power, bribes and improper sexual relations.

Several years ago, Bo reaped national acclaim by targeting gang leaders and corrupt police as Communist Party chief in the southwestern city of Chongqing. He had been tipped for elevation to the nine-member Politburo Standing Committee.

Massive damage, claims Politburo

The Politburo statement carried by Xinhua said "Bo Xilai's actions created grave repercussions." It accused him of "massively damaging" the reputation of the party and state.

A combination of two photographs shows British businessman Neil Heywood (L) at an Aston Martin dealership in Beijing, May 26, 2010, and Gu Kailai, wife of China's former Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai (not pictured), at a mourning held for her father-in-law Bo Yibo, former vice-chairman of the Central Advisory Commission of the Communist Party of China, in Beijing January 17, 2007. Cold-blooded killer or scapegoat, China's Lady MacBeth or over-protective mother -- Gu Kailai remains an enigma as she is tried for murder in a case that has shaken the ruling Communist Party and placed its secretive world of political privilege under intense scrutiny. The wife of ousted Chinese politician Bo Xilai will be tried this week in the central city of Hefei. There's little doubt a pliant court will find her guilty of murdering Neil Heywood, the British businessman who helped get her son into Harrow, the exclusive boarding school, and then into Oxford University. REUTERS/Stringer/Files (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW) CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA

The murder of Heywood, left, and the trial of Gu Kailai, right, shook China

Bo had been expelled from the party, it said, as well as the elite decision-making Politburo and Central Committee "in view of his errors and culpability,"

The Politburo also warned "party organisations at all levels" to regard the case of Bo as a "negative example" that illustrated "grave disciplinary violations."

Analysts say the affair surrounding Bo exposed deep divisions with the Communist Party, because Bo retains a large following among left-leaning Maoist party members.

Five yearly congress overdue

Xinhua said the 18th Party Congress would start in Beijing on November 8, a date later than initially expected. The congress is held every five years.

Nottingham University associate professor Lai Hongyi told Reuters that the late timing was due to continued discussions over the fate of Bo.

 "From their point of view, the top leaders probably would be interested in finishing Bo's case and verdict before the party congress, so it will not become an issue for people to talk about and divert peoples' attention from the party congress. Objectively, that would be the rationale of the party," said Lai.

At the congress, President Hu Jintao is expected to step down as head of the ruling party, making way for his expected successor, Vice President Xi Jinping.

ipj/rg (AFP, Reuters, AP)