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Big blow for Bo

Bo Xilai.

BEIJING – China’s ruling Communist Party accused disgraced politician Bo Xilai of abusing power, taking huge bribes and other crimes today, sealing the fate of a controversial leader whose fall shook a leadership handover due at a congress from November 8.

The once high-flying Bo now faces a criminal investigation that stemmed from a murder scandal, and will almost certainly be jailed. With the Communist Party congress about six weeks away, further steps in the case could come before then, helping pave the way for a transition of power, experts said.

“Bo Xilai’s actions created grave repercussions and did massive harm to the reputation of the party and state, producing an extremely malign effect at home and abroad,” the official statement from a party leaders’ meeting said, according to a report by the official Xinhua news agency.

Bo’s wife Gu Kailai and his former police chief Wang Lijun have already been jailed over the scandal stemming from the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood in the southwestern municipality of Chongqing, where Bo was Communist Party chief.

The official statement carried by Xinhua said that in the murder scandal, Bo “abused his powers of office, committed serious errors and bears a major responsibility”.

That charge appears to reflect accusations from Wang’s trial that suggested Bo tried to stymie the murder investigation.

Reports that Bo, the “princeling” son of a revolutionary leader, could escape with a light punishment have now been dealt a fatal blow, and accusations of womanizing could further tarnish his reputation in the eyes of Chinese people.

But the few weeks left before the congress will probably not allow time for a trial, said He Weifang, a law professor at Peking University who has closely followed Bo’s downfall.

“I think it’s quite certain that he won’t be able to escape punishment under the criminal law, but the timing makes it unlikely that will happen before the congress,” said He.

“I’d guess that he’ll get a jail sentence of 20 years or longer. The death penalty is unlikely, although the bribery charges could in theory allow it, if the amount is as huge as they say.”

At the congress, Chinese President Hu Jintao will step down as party chief, almost certainly making way for Vice President Xi Jinping to emerge as top leader. Xi is then almost sure to be appointed state president at the annual parliament session, likely in March next year. (Reuters)

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