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September 23, 2017

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Bo decision allows Beijing to focus on succession

BEIJING--With disgraced politician Bo Xilai expelled from the party, his career effectively ended with a slew of criminal charges that are certain to result in convictions, China's ruling communists can finally focus on the crucial task of ensuring a smooth transition to a new generation of leaders.

On Friday, the party's decision-making Politburo finally took long-awaited action on the scandal that had loomed over Chinese politics for more than half a year, leveling criminal charges against Bo that range from corruption to sexual affairs to abetting the cover-up of a murder by his wife. At the same time, the 25-member Politburo also made the long overdue announcement of the opening of the party congress, now scheduled for Nov. 8, when President Hu Jintao will step down as party boss and Vice President Xi Jinping will succeed him.

The twin pronouncements are connected: Getting Bo out of the way was seen as crucial to healing rifts in the party and allowing Xi and a new leadership to come to power without the overhang of a messy scandal.

"Having settled this contentious issue, the party leadership is in a position to start the party congress with a facade of unity and also harmony," said Willy Lam, a political analyst at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Friday's announcement also came on the eve of National Day, which commemorates Mao Zedong's Oct. 1, 1949 declaration of victory in the country's civil war and the dawn of the People's Republic of China. Despite China's explosive economic growth and breakneck modernization since then, the events surrounding Bo's fall from grace show Mao's party remains very much the opaque and powerful force in Chinese political life.

"Again, this is politics overriding legal and judicial principles," Lam said, noting that the decision came from the Politburo convening behind closed doors instead of judges in an open court.

"The elite politics are still done" in secrecy, Lam said.

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