The ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) has replaced a high-profile politician amid a scandal involving a senior police officer he promoted reportedly seeking political asylum.
In India, politicians sacked from their parties are often rehabilitated in time; here Thursday’s sacking of Bo Xilai from the post of party secretary of Chongqing city – the largest directly-controlled city located in southwest China with a population of millions -- signals the end to, or at least the slowing down of, his political career.
It was not immediately clear whether Bo had also been removed from the 24-member CPC politburo.
Only weeks ago, Bo’s name was making the rounds as a potential candidate for the all-powerful nine-member standing committee of the CPC’s politburo.
But that was until his aide and Chongqing police chief, Wang Lijun was found to have driven to the US consulate in Chengdu in early February in what was perceived as an attempt to seek asylum. Wang was later arrested by the State Security Ministry. His current whereabouts are unknown; on Thursday he was also removed of his remaining post as a vice-mayor of Chongqing.
The government’s decision to remove Bo was announced today through Xinhua, the state-run news agency. Reasons for removing Bo, the son of a powerful politician himself, were not made public, an indicator of the guarded nature of party politics here.
Other than the fact that Bo was party chief of Chongqing, among the top four cities in China, what makes the developments interesting is the politician’s profile; he was in jail for four years during the Cultural Revolution but went on to graduate from the Peking University and then held a number of important positions. Most recently, he and Wang were at the forefront of a drive that took on gangs and corrupt officials in Chongqing and made national headlines.
Rarely does the CPC’s intra-party politics come to the forefront. But because of Wang’s widely reported day trip to the US embassy and Bo’s flamboyant personality coupled with the upcoming leadership change, the incident has been doing frenetic rounds of the Chinese social networking sites.
Xinhua’s announcement was expectedly short: “Zhang Dejiang has been appointed Party chief of Chongqing, replacing Bo Xilai, according to a decision of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee announced Thursday. Bo will no longer serve as secretary, standing committee member or member of the CPC Chongqing municipal committee, according to the decision.”
Bo’s removal comes a day after Premier Wen Jiabao said that the Chongqing authorities must "seriously" reflect on and draw lessons from the Wang Lijun incident.
The central authorities have "taken this matter very seriously" and instructed relevant departments to start investigation immediately after this incident took place, he told a press conference on Wednesday.
“As far as the result of the investigation and how this matter will be handled are concerned, an answer must be given to the people and the result of the investigation should be able to stand the test of law and history,” he said.
Bo’s absence at an important meeting during the just-concluded National Peoples’ Congress was one of the first indicators that he was on his way out as party chief of Chongqing.