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September 22, 2017

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CPC says Bo will 'face justice,' sets Nov. 8 transition

BEIJING -- Disgraced politician Bo Xilai will "face justice" for a litany of crimes, China said Friday as it announced the Communist Party would open a pivotal congress to select a new leadership on Nov. 8.

The apparent decision to come down hard on Bo for alleged abuse of power, taking bribes and improper sexual relations was the latest turn in a scandal that has rocked the party ahead of a once-a-decade leadership transition.

Both Bo's fate and the date of the congress have been the subject of intense speculation over whether China's biggest political intrigue in decades would unsettle the highly choreographed leadership change.

The announcement on Bo marked an unprecedentedly harsh public rebuke for a Chinese Communist official as authorities looked to lay to rest the damaging episode that shocked China and saw Bo's wife convicted of murder.

"Bo Xilai's behavior created serious negative consequences, seriously damaged the party and the country's reputation in China and abroad, created an extremely negative result, and created huge losses for the party and the Chinese people," the Xinhua News Agency said.

Bo, the party boss of the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing, was seen as a candidate for promotion to the party's top echelons.

But he was brought down earlier this year by murder allegations against his wife Gu Kailai that came to light when Bo's right hand man and police chief Wang Lijun turned against him.

Bo "made serious errors and he bears the major responsibility" for the scandal that saw Gu convicted of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood after a multimillion-dollar deal went sour, Xinhua said.

The harsh accusations against Bo look likely to result in a lengthy prison sentence, said veteran China political analyst Willy Lam.

"It's stronger than expected. People were expecting that he would be kicked out of the party but not necessarily subject to criminal procedures," said Lam, of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Bo was removed from his Chongqing post earlier and analysts said the affair exposed deep divisions within the Communist Party as he retains a large following among left-leaning party members.

Lam said this likely will spare Bo the death penalty — a possibility for corruption charges.

"It looks like they will charge him with serious corruption and give him a stiff sentence of around 20 years," he said.

Friday's announcement now likely sets the stage for what will be a highly anticipated yet secretive closed-door trial for Bo.

Xinhua said that Bo, who had been a member of the powerful Politburo, was stripped of his party membership and positions, a step that in China clears the way for wayward Communist officials to be formally prosecuted.

It said Bo "seriously violated party discipline and abused his power with regards to the Gu Kailai and Wang Lijun cases, made serious errors, for which he bears the major responsibility, abused his public position to aid others and, directly and through family members, received huge bribes from others."

It also said Gu abused Bo's position to win favors for associates and relatives, including "huge financial benefits" and that Bo had "inappropriate sexual relationships with several women."

It added that investigations into the affair had also found evidence of unspecified "other crimes." It gave no specifics on any of the criminal allegations.

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