By the Associated Press, Globe and Mail, April 10, 2012
China's ruling Communist Party suspended a high-profile politician from his remaining leadership positions Tuesday and named his wife as a suspect in the murder of a British businessman.
Announcements carried by state media said Bo Xilai has been suspended from the party's 25-member Politburo on suspicion of involvement in “serious discipline violations.”
Mr. Bo's wife Gu Kailai is being investigated for intentional homicide of a British citizen, Neil Heywood, who died in November in Chongqing, the Xinhua News Agency said. Ms. Gu and an orderly at Mr. Bo's home have been turned over to judicial authorities, it said.
A flamboyant and telegenic politician with a populist flair, Mr. Bo is the most senior Chinese leader to be suspended from the Politburo since Shanghai's party chief was removed for corruption six years ago.
The announcements provide details on what has been a lurid, divisive and embarrassing scandal for the leadership, bringing political infighting out of the usually closed confines of elite party politics and into public view.
While the brief announcement about Mr. Bo did not elaborate on what rules he is suspected of violated, the charge is broad enough to cover everything from corruption to the mishandling of internal party affairs.
Mr. Bo was the party chief of the inland mega-city of Chongqing and until recently considered a contender for the highest echelons of the leadership when new members are installed later this year.
He gained notoriety for a crackdown on organized crime and a campaign to revive Mao Zedong-era communist songs and stories. The excesses of the campaigns, however, also earned Bo critics who accused him of violating civil liberties in busting gangs of dredging up memories of the chaotic Cultural Revolution associated with Mr. Mao's radical politics.
Mr. Bo's career began publicly unraveling in February after a once trusted aide left Chongqing and fled temporarily to the U.S. consulate in another city, apparently to seek asylum and in violation of party rules. A month later, Mr. Bo was dismissed from his Chongqing post without explanation.
The Xinhua report said that while in the U.S. Consulate, the aide, Wang Lijun, alleged that the British citizen, Neil Heywood, who died last November had been murdered.
There is considerable debate about whether, at this time of the next transfer of power from the current Supreme Council of the Communist Party to a new guard, this high-profile incident, including Mr. Bo's removal from the inner circles, is not really "code" for a deeper division between those who seek to modernize China, including opening the country up to increased public participation, increased private enterprise, and those who favour the maintenance of the buttoned-down, strictly controlled state operated rule that currently governs China.
While he allegedly cracked down on criminal elements, his son is reported to drive a red Ferrari around the streets of Beijing, hosts sumptuous parties at Oxford in Great Britain, and generally behaves in what some consider both a politically incorrect and certainly ostentatious manner.
Is this drama, and the ensuing barrage of media reports of party "unity" a sign that things are not, as some in the west would say, "copasthetic" in the highest levels of the inner circles of the Chinese Communist Party?
That is certainly one of the public interpretations that one hears and reads, although, we are still a long way from the final chapter of this narrative.
We will continue to watch with interest, and a little anxiety. The stability and the economic and political stability of China, holder of much world debt, and growing player on the world stage, are important to all nations. And for that stability to unravel would have impact on so many global files.