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Leaders stage unity show after expelling Bo

BEIJING -- China's leaders put on a show of unity on Saturday after their damning accusations against disgraced politician Bo Xilai, whose expulsion from the Communist Party drew an outcry from leftist supporters in a sign of the rifts his prosecution could inflame.

Once a charismatic yet divisive star who stood out on China's stolid political stage, Bo is almost sure to face trial and jail after the ruling Communist Party announced his expulsion on Friday and issued a list of allegations: bending the law to hush up a murder, taking huge bribes and engaging in “improper sexual relations with multiple women.”

Before Bo is charged and tried, investigators must first complete an inquiry and indict him, but China's prosecutors and courts come under party control and are most unlikely to challenge the accusations.

The party buried Bo under the accusations at the same time that it announced a Nov. 8 date for a congress that will anoint a new generation of top leaders — a lineup that Bo held barely disguised ambitions to join.

On Saturday evening, top leaders gathered in the cavernous national parliament building for a National Day reception, their first public appearance since the revelation of the accusations against Bo.

Premier Wen Jiabao did not mention Bo or any other controversies in his remarks to hundreds of diplomats, officials and other guests.

“Looking ahead, we are full of confidence,” Wen told them, adding that “no hardship will prevent us from forging ahead.”

The eight other members of the Politburo Standing Committee — the party's innermost core of power — also attended.

Bo's downfall has unsettled their preparations for the leadership succession, and exposed high-level abuse of power after his former police chief briefly took refuge in a U.S. Consulate and revealed that Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, had murdered a British businessman.

State media tried to draw a clear line between Bo and the party elite he once belonged to, casting his fall as a victory for the party's determination to fight corruption.

“No matter how high a position, no matter how influential, anyone who violates party discipline and state law will be sternly pursued and punished,” the official Xinhua News Agency said in a commentary on the case.

“As a senior party official, Bo Xilai should have been a model of obedience to party discipline,” the news agency said in the commentary, widely distributed by state media websites. “But instead he monopolized power and behaved recklessly, doing as he pleased and gravely violating discipline.”

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China's Premier Wen Jiabao raises his glass as he makes a toast during the 63rd National Day reception at the Great Hall of the People on Saturday, Sept. 29. (AFP)

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