Bo Xilai, the former Party secretary of Chongqing, has been removed from his Party posts and is now under the investigation of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) secretive and powerful disciplinary committee, according to Xinhua, the official mouthpiece of the CCP.
The news was announced in a screaming headline on the front page of Xinhua and People’s Daily at 11 pm on April 10, which said that “Comrade Bo Xilai Has Seriously Violated Discipline.” The news was first made public earlier, on China Central Television (CCTV), the Party’s official television station.
The short notice says that the CCP Central Committee decided, according to the Party constitution and internal Party “discipline inspection” provisions, that Bo would be removed from the Politburo and all Central Party committees and would be investigated.
Chinese commentators pointed out that the fact that Bo is still referred to as “comrade” indicates that he is still a Party member, and that the announcement refers to a “suspension” of Party duties, as opposed to a permanent dismissal.
The highly public way that Bo Xilai is being dealt with confounds the expectations of some observers of Chinese politics, who assumed that the current leadership would want to quietly shunt Bo aside so as to not attract world attention and speculation about the stability of the leadership.
Alongside the announcement on Bo, another Xinhua release said that Gu Kailai, Bo’s wife, was under investigation for the death of Englishman Neil Heywood. Heywood was found dead in a Chongqing hotel in November last year. Police said the reason was “excessive alcohol consumption” and then promptly cremated the body without an autopsy. Heywood was known by friends and family not to drink, however, raising questions about the way Chongqing police dealt with the incident.
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The Xinhua announcement says that Heywood and Gu Kailai enjoyed good relations, but fell out over “economic interests.” Wang Lijun’s visit to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu in February prompted public security organs to revisit the Heywood case, Xinhua said. “According to investigation,” the notice says, “there is now evidence that proves that Neil Heywood was a victim of homicide, and Gu Kailai and Zhang Xiaojun (a Bo family helper) are heavily suspected in the crime.”
In an indication of the seriousness of the incident for the Communist Party, work unit meetings were convened across the country before the news’ official announcement, so the Party could inform its members first. Some participants uploaded pictures of these meetings to Weibo, as well as complaints about being called to assemble during the night. Such nationwide Party small group meetings are usually only held in extremely politically sensitive cases, the touchstone being during the Cultural Revolution when Lin Biao, Mao’s former right hand man, was accused of being a traitor.
He Qinglian, an economist and political commentator, wrote on Twitter that the peculiar wording of the second notice—where Gu Kailai is referred to as “Bo-Gu Kailai”—indicates that the authorities may be attempting to implicate Bo in the murder of Heywood. “They’re rushing this through because the higher-ups feel as though they’re losing control of the situation.”
With research by Ariel Tian.
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