China ejects Bo from elite rank, to probe wife for murder
BEIJING CHINESE politician Bo Xilai, once a rising star, has been stripped of his elite Communist Party post while his wife is probed for the murder of a British national, state media said on Tuesday.
The shock announcements — published by the official Xinhua news agency —shed some light on a mysterious political scandal involving Bo and a reported attempt by his former righthand man to defect to the United States.
Analysts say the rare, public scandal has exposed deep rifts within the ruling party ahead of a key, once-in-adecade leadership transition due to take place later this year.
Xinhua first issued a short dispatch late Tuesday announcing Bo had been suspended from the party’s powerful and exclusive 25- member Politburo and the wider Central Committee, which consists of more than 300 top officials.
The report said “Comrade Bo Xilai” was suspected of being involved in “serious discipline violations”, which in China usually refers to corruption, but gave no other details.
Bo was one of China’s most high-profile politicians and a rising star in the party until he was sacked last month as party chief of the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing, and then as a Politburo member on Tuesday.
The 62-year-old’s troubles started in February when Wang Lijun, his former police chief, fled to a US consulate and reportedly asked for asylum — an event that eventually led to Bo’s suspension as Chongqing head.
The scandal remained shrouded in mystery until news emerged late last month that Britain had asked China to reinvestigate the death of a British national in Chongqing last November amid rumours it may have been linked to Bo’s family.
On Tuesday, in a second brief dispatch, Xinhua reported that police had reopened a probe into the death of Neil Heywood after finding evidence Bo’s wife Gu Kailai may have been involved in his murder.
Gu has been “transferred to judicial authorities on suspected crime of intentional homicide” of Heywood, the report said, adding Wang made allegations about the death of the British businessman when he visited the US consulate.
“Police authorities paid high attention to the case, and set up the team to reinvestigate the case according to law with an attitude to seek truth from facts,” Xinhua said.
“According to investigation results, Bogu Kailai, wife of Comrade Bo Xilai, and their son were in good terms with Heywood.
However, they had conflict over economic interests, which had been intensified.
“According to reinvestigation results, the existing evidence indicated that Heywood died of homicide, of which Bogu Kailai and Zhang Xiaojun, an orderly at Bo’s home, are highly suspected.” Those who break China’s laws will be “handled in accordance with the law,” the Xinhua report said.
It is unclear whether Bo’s suspension from the Politburo is linked to Heywood’s death.
But it ends the political career of the charismatic former commerce minister who had previously been tipped to become a member of the party’s Standing Committee — the apex of political power in China — later this year.
The brief Xinhua report said that the party’s Central Committee had decided to suspend “Comrade Bo Xilai” from the Politburo.