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Today, China announced that a prominent politician will be expelled from the Communist Party. Bo Xilai will also face wide-ranging criminal charges. NPR's Louisa Lim has this story from Beijing, on the latest developments in China's most sensational political scandal in decades.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Foreign language spoken)
LOUISA LIM, BYLINE: This is what a downfall sounds like; it's the announcement on state-run Chinese television that criminal charges will be laid against Bo Xilai, once a high-flying politician. The accusations are lurid; huge bribes received personally and through his family, improper sexual relationships, hints of unnamed other crimes. Most sensationally of all, he's implicated in covering up the murder of a British businessman, for which his wife has been found guilty. The list of accusations raises a lot of questions.
RANA MITTER: How is it possible for someone like that, first of all, to have got as far in the party - within sniffing distance of the Politburo standing committee, the very top team in Chinese politics? And also, what does it say about his connections with other people at the high levels?
LIM: Rana Mitter, a professor of Chinese history at Oxford University, says the party is taking a risky path.
MITTER: The only way I can see that the Chinese Communist Party can spin this in a way that will serve their interests is to basically make a morality tale. To say that this is one, you know, rogue character, he's a bad apple, and the party system works because eventually it caught up with him.
BO XILAI: (Foreign language spoken)
LIM: In his last public appearance in March, Bo came out fighting. He accused enemies of trying to smear him and his family. Then he disappeared from public view.
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LIM: As Communist Party secretary of Chongqing, he launched a high-profile campaign of red songs, using Mao-era mass mobilization tactics. Bo is the son of a revolutionary hero, he has allies in high places. The long delay in announcing his fate was widely seen as a sign of factional infighting. Chongqing writer, Wang Kang, sees today's announcement as progress.
WANG KANG: (Through translator) This is not bad. It's good as long as the Communist Party can take lessons from this and push forward political reforms. It's bad for the Maoists, the leftists. But it could be a new beginning for China.
LIM: Others are not so sure. It's not clear if Bo's case can be wrapped up before the all-important party congress, when China's new leadership will be unveiled. The date for that was announced today: November the 8th, later than expected. Patrick Chovanec from Tsinghua University, fears this just extends a policy paralysis.
PATRICK CHOVANEC: There has been a lot of hope, particularly in markets, that the new leadership team would be in place and it would hit the ground running and really do something about, certainly, the economy. And just waiting until November, that's actually a really long time to wait on some pretty immediate issues.
LIM: China's new leadership will be looking to start afresh. But, as Rana Mitter puts it, their real problem is that Bo is a symptom of a much wider pathology infecting the entire political system. Louisa Lim, NPR News, Beijing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.