Bo’s fall in China steepens

Legislative ouster removes immunity

BEIJING – Chinese lawmakers have stripped disgraced politician Bo Xilai of his last official position, formally expelling him from the country’s top legislature and clearing the way for criminal proceedings against the once-rising political star.

Though largely a formality since Bo was purged from the Communist Party late last month, his expulsion from the congress on Friday removes his immunity from prosecution. That sets the stage for a criminal case involving accusations of corruption and other wrongdoing, including involvement in covering up the murder of a British businessman. Bo’s wife and a household aide were sentenced for the murder in August.

Moving swiftly, the top prosecutor’s office announced that Bo has been placed under investigation for alleged crimes it did not specify. The brief statement said that the agency has imposed “coercive measures” on him, usually a euphemism for jail.

Chinese leaders are keen to resolve the party’s most damaging public scandal in decades as they prepare for next month’s once-in-a-decade transition of power. They are handing it over to the next generation of leaders, who will be tasked with shoring up public support in the face of widespread disgust over official graft and influence peddling.

They may even want to push through a trial before the opening of the party congress on Nov. 8, though some experts say there may not be enough time. Leaders still need to reach a consensus on how harshly to punish Bo and which of his associates to include in the trial, and ensure the accused remains compliant in the courtroom, said Ding Xueliang, an expert on the Chinese leadership at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

“It’s really a very muddy situation,” he said.

As the most powerful official in the southwestern mega-city of Chongqing, Bo had been considered a candidate for a seat on the party’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, and his toppling exposed sharp infighting in the party’s uppermost ranks.

The National People’s Congress Standing Committee said it approved a decision to remove Bo as a deputy, but offered no details.

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