Bo Xilai Removed from Party Posts; Wife Investigated for Murder (Updated)

The case of former Chongqing Party secretary Bo Xilai has taken a surprise turn with the dismissal of Bo from his position on the Central Committee and Politburo and the investigation on his wife in the murder of Briton Neil Heywood, who was a close associate of their family. From Reuters:

The decision to banish Bo from the Central Committee and its Politburo effectively ends the career of China’s brashest and most controversial politician, who was widely seen as pressing for a top post in China’s next leadership, to be settled later this year.

The official Xinhua news agency confirmed a Reuters report several hours earlier that Bo had been suspended from his party posts, and separately reported that his wife is suspected in the murder of Briton Neil Heywood.

“Comrade Bo Xilai is suspected of being involved in serious disciplinary violations,” said the news agency said, citing a decision by the central party leadership to suspend Bo from its top ranks.

And from the official Xinhua report (Gu Kailai is also known as Bogu Kailai):

According to investigation results, Bogu Kailai, wife of Comrade Bo Xilai, and their son were in good terms with Heywood. However, they had conflict over economic interests, which had been intensified.

According to reinvestigation results, the existing evidence indicated that Heywood died of homicide, of which Bogu Kailai and Zhang Xiaojun, an orderly at Bo’s home, are highly suspected.

Bogu Kailai and Zhang Xiaojun have been transferred to judicial authorities on suspected crime of intentional homicide.

According to senior officials from related authorities, China is a socialist country ruled by law, and the sanctity and authority of law shall not be tramped. Whoever has broken the law will be handled in accordance with law and will not be tolerated, no matter who is involved.

Meanwhile, an article in the English-language edition of the official Global Times argues that the handling of Bo’s case demonstrates the “resilience” of the rule of law in China:

The high-profile case has finally brought an initial conclusion to two months of speculations and rumors. This emergency, starting from former deputy mayor of Chongqing Wang Lijun seeking refuge at the US consulate in Chengdu in February, shows that China has its own resilience. It is not easily disrupted by sudden incidents.

Law is the base to deal with problems at all levels. This is the foundation for China to keep a healthy political structure.

When the Wang Lijun case was disclosed, the government did not cover it up but initiated an investigation accordingly. This is no longer the era where China would rather cover issues up to avoid revealing problems.

The CPC’s decision against Bo highlights that nobody is above the law and discipline in China. Power abuses are not allowed no matter how superior one’s authority is. Local affairs cannot be dominated by an individual’s interests.

UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal’s China Real Times blog reports on the response to the latest developments on China’s social media sites:

“Why does it seem like, throughout Chinese history, behind every colorful man there’s a powerful woman?” asked real-estate executive Mi Ruihong.

TV mega-personality Hung Huang tackled the news from a different angle, writing: “In this country, whenever men do something bad, it’s all the woman’s fault.”

Writer Beicun, meanwhile, took exception to all the excitement: “What does tonight change? Nothing, nothing at all,” he wrote. “Five-thousand years ago through to today, nothing has changed. Power games played over and over again for thousands of years…this culture’s inhumanity is as eternal as death.”

Censors appeared to be working overtime to control the flood of commentary, with Sina Weibo continuing to block searches for Mr. Bo’s and Ms. Gu’s names and engaging in wholesale erasure of comments even on its own official posts.

Read more reactions from netizens via Tea Leaf Nation.

Update 2 (10:00pm PST April 10): China Media Project has published translations of three Xinhua dispatches about today’s events.

CDT has translated a list of keywords that have been banned from Sina Weibo search relating to Bo Xilai, Gu Kailai, and Neil Heywood.

The Los Angeles Times reported from Chongqing on reactions on the street to Bo Xilai’s downfall:

Many academics, lawyers and other intellectuals were happy to see Bo leave. But the party’s campaign against him is unlikely to convince Bo supporters such as the group of retirees swaying recently to Chinese pop music in Chongqing’s People’s Square, a tree-lined swath of red and gray tile sandwiched between an imposing government building and a leafy hillside.

“Ninety-five percent of us common people support Bo. He was a good leader,” said a woman in a red tracksuit. “Now Chongqing people want to take him back.”

“We’re retired now, so we’re not afraid to talk about these things,” said a 59-year-old man who identified himself as Mr. Shi. When two security guards began approaching from the far end of the square, the crowd dispersed.

See also reports from the Wall Street Journal and the Economist. Read more about Gu Kailai and the death of Neil Heywood via CDT. Much more about the case is available on our Bo Xilai page.

This post will be updated as more news becomes available.