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Bo Xilai did 'massive harm' to China's Communist Party, say officials (+video)

Bo Xilai, the disgraced Chinese politician facing prison time in a scandal involving the murder of a British businessman, has been expelled from the Communist Party, which is undergoing a once-in-a-decade generational transition of power.

By Chris BuckleyReuters, Ben BlanchardReuters / September 28, 2012

In this March 9 file photo, Bo Xilai reacts during a plenary session of the National People's Congress held in Beijing.

Ng Han Guan/AP/File

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Beijing

China's ruling Communist Party accused disgraced politician Bo Xilai of abusing power, taking huge bribes and other crimes on Friday, sealing the fate of a controversial leader whose fall shook a leadership handover due at a congress from Nov. 8.

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In this video taken in April, CBS news correspondent Barry Peterson talks about the man in the center of a scandal that erupted in Beijing this spring.

The once high-flying Bo now faces a criminal investigation that stemmed from a murder scandal, and will almost certainly be jailed. With the Communist Party congress about six weeks away, further steps in the case could come before then, helping pave the way for a transition of power, experts said.

"Bo Xilai's actions created grave repercussions and did massive harm to the reputation of the party and state, producing an extremely malign effect at home and abroad," the official statement from a party leaders' meeting said, according to a report by the official Xinhua news agency.

Bo's wife Gu Kailai and his former police chief Wang Lijun have already been jailed over the scandal stemming from the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood in the southwestern municipality of Chongqing, where Bo was Communist Party chief.

The official statement carried by Xinhua said that in the murder scandal, Bo "abused his powers of office, committed serious errors and bears a major responsibility".

That charge appears to reflect accusations from Wang's trial that suggested Bo tried to stymie the murder investigation.

Reports that Bo, the "princeling" son of a revolutionary leader, could escape with a light punishment have now been dealt a fatal blow, and accusations of womanising could further tarnish his reputation in the eyes of Chinese people.

But the few weeks left before the congress will probably not allow time for a trial, said He Weifang, a law professor at Peking University who has closely followed Bo's downfall.

"I think it's quite certain that he won't be able to escape punishment under the criminal law, but the timing makes it unlikely that will happen before the congress," said He.

"I'd guess that he'll get a jail sentence of 20 years or longer. The death penalty is unlikely, although the bribery charges could in theory allow it, if the amount is as huge as they say."

At the congress, Chinese President Hu Jintao will step down as party chief, almost certainly making way for Vice President Xi Jinping to emerge as top leader. Xi is then almost sure to be appointed state president at the annual parliament session, likely in March next year.

Warning to heed example

Bo, 63, has been expelled from the party as well as the elite decision-making Politburo and Central Committee "in view of his errors and culpability in the Wang Lijun incident and the intentional homicide case involving Bogu Kailai", said the party announcement.

Bogu is his wife's official but rarely used surname.

Bo's "grave violations of party discipline" extended back to his time as an official in Dalian city and Liaoning province in northeast China, and as minister of commerce, said the statement from the Politburo.

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