Bo Xilai due to lose prosecution immunity
A vote to strip disgraced Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai of national lawmaker status - and clear the way for his criminal prosecution - appeared close at hand yesterday as the National People's Congress's top body convened in Beijing.
The opening agenda of the NPC Standing Committee's four-day session included a report on the qualifications of "certain NPC delegates and discussed cases of appointments and dismissals", according to Xinhua.
Although the report mentioned no names, the item was widely believed to be a reference to Bo, who was purged from his powerful Communist Party posts last month amid allegations of corruption, abuses of power and even moral failings.
The decision to strip Bo of his NPC membership, thereby lifting his immunity from criminal prosecution, is expected at the end of the four-day session on Friday. The vote would officially end a once high-flying political career.
The party is scrambling to conclude proceedings against Bo before top posts change hands at the party's 18th national congress, beginning on November 8.
The NPC session began amid reports that Bo had petitioned the body for a chance to defend himself, an unusual request and one that there was only a small chance authorities would consider, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy. Political analysts called such an arrangement unlikely.
Mao Shoulong , a professor of public administration at Renmin University, said: "There is no regulation or law stipulating that a delegate can mount a defence before their membership status is stripped. There is no such precedent before."
On Monday, a group of leftists published an open letter urging the NPC not to expel Bo. They called for an investigation into what they said was a legally questionable and politically motivated action.
But Gu Su , an expert in constitutional law at Nanjing University, said the letter would have little impact on the NPC. He said Bo's testimony was "not necessary before voting to strip his membership" because the NPC Standing Committee is not a judicial body.
The panel also discussed several draft laws and legal amendments, including provisions for general hospitals to set up mental illness clinics and changes to the postal law.