Bo Xilai expelled from Party as he faces corruption and bribery charges
Dismissal amid accusations including bribery coincides with Beijing's announcement of November 8 start for crucial 18th national congress
Disgraced Politburo member Bo Xilai has been expelled from the Communist Party and will face criminal prosecution over bribery and other corruption charges, as Beijing scrambles to wind up its worst political crisis in decades ahead of a once-a-decade leadership transition scheduled to start in November.
Along with the decision to dismiss Bo from the Politburo, Central Committee and party and subject him to criminal charges, a Politburo meeting yesterday also announced that the party's 18th national congress will start on November 8, Xinhua reported.
The seventh and last plenum of the party's 17th Central Committee, which will mark the completion of preparations for a generational power transition, will be held on November 1, it said.
Analysts said the decisions on Bo's fate and the dates for the party gatherings showed the top leadership had set aside their differences and put the transition - which has been overshadowed by Bo's downfall and a string of scandals - back on track.
Beijing-based analyst Zhang Lifan said how to handle Bo had become the most divisive and decisive factor in deciding the congress date.
The 63-year-old Bo was accused of serious crimes and violations of party discipline including covering up for his wife in the murder of a British businessman, receiving "huge" bribes and "maintaining improper sexual relationships with a number of women", Xinhua 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," Xinhua said, citing the Politburo statement.
While Bo has become the third Politburo member to stand trial in the past two decades - following former Beijing party boss Chen Xitong in 1998 and Shanghai party chief Chen Liangyu in 2008 - he is expected to face a harsher sentence, according to legal and political analysts.
They say that unlike Chen Liangyu, who was sentenced to 18 years' jail, and Chen Xitong, who got 16 years, former Chongqing party chief Bo could even face the death penalty.
"Given the ... allegation that he took huge amounts in bribes, Bo is likely to face life imprisonment or even a death sentence, although it is rare to sentence senior party leaders to death," Beijing-based lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan said.
Zhang Ming , a political analyst at Renmin University, said: "[Former NPC vice-chairman] Cheng Kejie was sentenced to death for receiving bribes alone, and there are other accusations facing Bo." Another lawyer, Mo Shaoping , also said Bo was likely to face capital punishment on bribery charges because the mainland's criminal law said that could be applied in cases involving the taking of more than 100,000 yuan in bribes.
Xinhua said the Politburo and the party's Central Committee were briefed about the investigation into the defection of Bo's top aide, former Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun , and the death of British businessman Neil Heywood at a meeting on April 10 - about three weeks after Bo was sacked from the post of Chongqing party boss - and decided to investigate Bo after noting his mistakes and responsibilities in the two cases.
In an unusual step to further incriminate Bo, Xinhua said: "Investigations found that Bo seriously violated party discipline while heading the city of Dalian and the Ministry of Commerce as well as serving as a member of the CPC Central Committee, Political Bureau and party chief of Chongqing."
Bo is expected to be arrested after he is stripped of his National People's Congress seat when the NPC Standing Committee meets late next month, and stand trial later, Liu said.
Chongqing's people's congress stripped Bo of his local deputy status yesterday, the city's official news portal reported.
Additional reporting by Laura Zhou and Li Jing