'Resolute' decision to expel Bo is praised by media
Raymond Li, Shi Jiangtao and Choi Chi-yuk
The mainland's media yesterday rallied behind the decision to expel Bo Xilai from the Communist Party's top echelons, hailing his dismissal as a victory for party discipline and the rule of law.
People's Daily, the main party mouthpiece, said Bo's behaviour had damaged the party and the country. It said the 'resolute decision' taken by the party under the leadership of President Hu Jintao was a strong sign of its responsibility towards the party and the people.
'The decision must win the wholehearted support from all the party and people because it has demonstrated the belief of the party and government in firmly upholding the fundamental interests of the people,' the newspaper said, in a commentary widely reprinted in other state publications.
Most noticeably, the PLA Daily ran two back-to-back commentaries late on Tuesday night emphasising the need for maintaining the 'supreme political discipline of the army' and said Hu's orders must be obeyed to the letter.
This has been interpreted by analysts as a clear sign for the army to distance itself from Bo, whose late father Bo Yibo was a revolutionary elder with strong ties to the military.
The mainland's leading liberal publications such as Nanfang Daily and Southern Metropolis News were muted over Bo's spectacular fall.
Both newspapers ran only the People's Daily commentary while Beijing News, another liberal-leaning publication based in Beijing, has largely followed the tone of the People's Daily commentary although it was able to run its own editorial.
Qiao Mu, associate professor and director of the International Communication Research Centre at Beijing Foreign Studies University, said the control of the news about Bo bore the hallmarks of the way the party has controlled politically sensitive information for decades.
'Such control of important information is an apparent overkill in the age of information, but is still justified when you take into account how much they're concerned about instability,' said Qiao.
Sources also revealed yesterday that Bo annoyed the central leadership by his arbitrary decision to sack his former close aide Wang Lijun without gaining approval from Beijing.
Bo was suspended from the party's 25-strong Politburo and the Central Committee due to his 'suspected involvement in serious discipline violations', according to Xinhua on Tuesday night. There were no specifics about what Bo is alleged to have done and the phrase [serious discipline violations] became the hottest search topic on the mainland internet. According to sources briefed about a detailed version of Beijing's verdict on Bo on Tuesday night, the former Chongqing party boss fired Wang, who was the municipality's police chief, after he told Bo he was investigating a criminal case which implicated his family.
'It [the detailed notice] said the Ministry of Public Security was not consulted in advance on the sacking of Wang Lijun as police head or on the diluting of his vice-mayor portfolio, and these constituted a serious breaching of party disciplines,' said the sources. In a further revelation about the allegedly criminal evidence against Bo's wife Gu Kailai , the notice, circulated around the middle-level cadres in Chongqing on Tuesday night, said she 'directly intervened' in the death case of British businessman Neil Heywood.
Gu is now in police custody as a prime suspect in the murder probe.
'At the direct intervention of Gu Kailai', the investigation did not look further into mysterious circumstances surrounding Heywood's death and concluded that the Briton may have died of natural causes, the sources quoted the notice as saying.
Sources also said preliminary findings of a probe into Bo had discovered clues linking him to 'various other acts violating laws and the party's disciplines'.
Wang, whose treatment was not mentioned in either of the Xinhua statements on Tuesday night, committed 'treason' for his attempt to seek protection from the US consulate in Chengdu , but was also credited with co-operation with the authorities, the notice said.
Analysts said Beijing's intentional ambiguity over key unanswered questions surrounding Bo were signs that he may have been involved in more serious problems, such as economic offences and corruption, which could be made public later to further disgrace him. But Beijing-based analyst Zhang Ming said despite the swift ousting of Bo - in an apparent bid to rein in online speculation - it was unlikely the authorities would tell the public the whole truth about Bo's downfall.
Bo became famous for his controversial crusade against organised crime and his ultra-orthodox championing of hardcore socialist ideology, reminiscent of the Maoist era.
'Criminal offences that implicate Bo and his family members may be the best excuses to cover up the startling truth about political strife and a top-level power struggle,' Zhang said.