China starts formal criminal probe into politician Bo Xilai
By Ben Blanchard and Sui-Lee Wee ,Reuters
October 28, 2012, 12:09 am TWN
BEIJING -- China moved quickly on Friday to announce it had formally begun a criminal probe into disgraced former senior politician Bo Xilai, hours after expelling him from the largely rubber stamp parliament and so removing his immunity from prosecution.
The announcements pave the way for Bo, once a contender for top leadership in the world's second largest economy, to face trial and likely a long jail sentence on accusations of corruption and abuse of power.
A brief report by the state-run Xinhua News Agency said state prosecutors had "decided to put Bo Xilai under investigation for alleged criminal offences."
It added that they had "imposed coercive measures on him in accordance with the law," likely a reference that he was now officially in detention.
Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, and his former police chief, Wang Lijun, have both been jailed over a scandal that stems from the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood while Bo was Communist Party chief of the southwestern city of Chongqing.
The government last month accused Bo of corruption and of bending the law to hush up the murder.
The latest move comes two weeks before the Communist Party holds a congress, which opens on Nov. 8, that will unveil the country's new central leadership.
Bo, 63, was widely seen as pursuing a powerful spot in the new leadership before his career unraveled after Wang fled to a U.S. Consulate for more than 24 hours in February and alleged that Bo's wife had poisoned Heywood.
Bo, a former commerce minister, used his post in Chongqing since 2007 to cast the sprawling, haze-covered municipality into a showcase for his mix of populist policies and bold spending plans that won support from leftists yearning for a charismatic leader.
Xinhua provided no other details, such as what charges Bo may face, saying only that the investigation was under way.
Earlier in the day, Xinhua said the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's parliament, "announced the termination of Bo Xilai's post" as the deputy to the parliament.
As a member of that body he had enjoyed immunity from prosecution.
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 unlikely to challenge the accusations.
A lawyer for Bo, who has been employed by the family to represent him, said on Thursday he was unable to say whether the government would allow him to represent Bo when the case comes to trial.
"It's theater," said Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, a New York-based advocacy group, who spoke before Bo's expulsion and criminal probe were announced.
"The judiciary grinds into action only when the outcome has been determined. There is no indication we will see a genuine trial because Bo knows too much."