BEIJING — After months of backroom political wrangling, the Chinese Communist Partyannounced late Friday that it would expel renegade Politburo member Bo Xilai and refer him for prosecution before the next party congress.
The 18th party congress, in which a new generation of leadership will be anointed, is to be pushed back to Nov. 8, a considerable delay given that preparations are already in place in Beijing for the meeting to take place in October.
The announcement made during the prime-time nightly news on Friday – on the eve of a week-long public holiday – provides a glimpse into the turmoil beneath the veneer of harmony and stability that the Communist Party is trying to project.
The harsh language suggests that the Chinese government will throw the book at Bo as far as criminal charges. Bo, 63, “received huge bribes personally and through his family…., and maintained improper sexual relationships with a number of women,’’ the government-controlled Xinhua news agency reported. He also was accused of involvement in covering up for his wife, Gu Kailai, who was convicted recently of murdering an Englishman, Neil Heywood, in a bizarre poisoning plot.
Bo’s behavior “badly undermined the reputation of the Party and the country, created very negative impact at home and abroad and significantly damaged the cause of the party and people,’’ the announcement read.
Until earlier this year, Bo had been a leading contender in the next generation of leadership and he remains a hero for many Chinese nostalgic about Communism as it existed before China’s reform and opening. In Chongqing, where he was Communist Party chief until March, he spearheaded a revival of singing and dancing revolutionary songs and a Cultural Revolution-style crackdown on crime.
The son of one of Mao Zedong’s closest comrades, Bo was widely seen as a rival to Xi Jinping, the reform-minded vice president who is to be named next month to succeed Hu Jintao as China’s leader for the next decade.
The date for the 18th Communist Party congress should have been announced last month, given that security preparations are nearly complete. Various conventions scheduled for October were cancelled along with a Beijing marathon that was supposed to take place Oct. 14. Giant floral arrangements (which may now wilt) were installed earlier this month in anticipation of the congress.
"The scheduling of the congress has been postponed for a long time because of the internal conflicts in the party,’’ said Jin Zhong, a magazine editor and veteran political analyst working out of Hong Kong. "The main problem is Bo Xilai. They haven’t decided how to deal with him and he has taken a very tough stance, refusing to admit anything.’"