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China party boss Bo Xilai drummed out, facing trial
Posted 9/28/2012 8:33 PM ET
BEIJING รข?? A former Communist Party boss whose wife got a suspended death penalty sentence has been cast out of the party, Chinese state media reported Friday.

Bo Xilai, the charismatic leader at the heart of Chinese politics' worst scandal for years, now faces his own trial and most likely a long prison sentence.

Once tipped for a seat at China's top table of power, Bo, 63, was expelled by the 25-member Politburo of which he was a member until the scandal broke in the spring. His "suspected law violations" have been transferred to prosecutors, reported state news agency Xinhua.

The party also announced that a once-in-a-decade transition of power from its current rulers to a new slate of leaders will begin Nov. 8.

Besides "huge bribes" and abuse of power, Bo also "had or maintained improper sexual relationships with a number of women," Xinhua said. The news, released on state TV and online, quickly refueled online rumors that Bo had at least 100 mistresses.

Last month Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, was convicted of poisoning and killing a British businessman. His henchman, flashy police chief Wang Lijun, was convicted earlier this month of bribe taking, defection and "bending the law for selfish ends."

After keeping Bo's name entirely out of the cases of his wife and police chief, the official narrative now paints him as the wicked head of a criminal enterprise in the massive southwest city of Chongqing, a major industrial center.

China's censors have increasingly restricted discussion of the Bo affair in recent months, but users of China's popular micro-blogging services Friday enjoyed greater than usual freedom. Many posted jokes and quoted Bo's own anti-corruption remarks made during his tenure as party chief in Chongqing.

Xinhua said his crimes stretched much further back to his time as mayor of the eastern port city of Dalian, where this ambitious, media-savvy politician, a rarity amid the careful, conformist world of Chinese Communism, first came to national prominence.

The multiple potential charges against Bo, and the recent example of the trials of his wife and police chief, leave little doubt Bo will be found guilty. In cases as political as these, where party committees, not judges, make the key decisions, defendants are usually unable to hire their own lawyers.

Until this February, when Wang fled Chongqing and turned whistle-blower during an attempted defection at a U.S. consulate, Bo enjoyed an outside chance of promotion this year to the Politburo's Standing Committee, whose nine, all-male members represent the apex of power in China.

Those members will change in November, according to the announcement setting the date for the start of the party congress that will approve the once-a-decade leadership change from current party boss Hu Jintao and premier Wen Jiabao to a new, slightly younger set of leaders.

Both Hu and Wen have often warned that corruption poses a life-and-death danger to the party, yet no concrete changes are taken to challenge the status quo. Even as the Politburo decision Friday revealed gross corruption at the most senior levels, the party tried to make the best of it, suggesting that Bo would become a "negative example" to educate others.

The online reaction Friday indicated that many members of the Internet-using Chinese public remain deeply cynical about their rulers.

"In a society with a power fetish, gaining greater power is not only the goal of ambitious people, and a tool to reap profits, but even more it's the only way for people in power to protect themselves," writer Zhao Chu posted on a weibo microblog.

Contributing: Sunny Yang

Posted 9/28/2012 8:33 PM ET