The double-barreled announcements also signaled that competing factions within the party may have settled their biggest lingering questions as they approach a political changing of the guar
d during the party congress that is now slated to begin on Nov. 8, two days after the U.S. presidential election.
The timing of the announcement, on the eve of an eight-day holiday, suggests how sensitive Chinese leaders considered the news, at a time of intensive wrangling over who should sit on the party’s next ruling council and over how the party should handle Bo, who commanded a fervent following among Communist revivalists before his spectacular downfall.
Vice President Xi Jinping, whose disappearance from public view for two weeks this month has still not been fully explained, remains poised to take over China’s top post. But there have been signs of continued competition over other positions on the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, which will shape China’s policies at a time of sharpened tension with the United States over economic and military matters.
Among the forces looming largest in the jockeying are former president Jiang Zemin and outgoing President Hu Jintao, who are both eager to protect their legacy and power base within a system that amounts to collective leadership, party insiders say.
Bo himself had been seen as a candidate for the ruling council, but he has disappeared from view since being ousted in March as the party leader in the city of Chongqing, amid allegations of wrongdoing interwoven by a murder mystery entangling his wife, Gu Kailai, and an aide.
The severity and breadth of Friday’s accusations against Bo came as a surprise to those who had expected party leaders to temper their treatment of him in deference to his ideological allies and his many supporters. The long list of charges suggested that China’s leaders ultimately agreed to throw their full weight against him, perhaps out of concern that treating Bo too gently could leave him undiminished as a potential rival to a new team of leaders.
Among other charges, Bo was accused of abusing his office, accepting bribes (directly as well as through family members), failing as a supervisor, promoting the wrong people and breaking an assortment of party rules. Other charges included “improper relationships with a number of women” and playing a role in the murder plot.
Bo has not been seen in public in months and had not — until Friday — been mentioned by name in state-controlled media for a significant period of time. No information on his whereabouts or his potential trial date was included in a report by the state-run Xinhua News Agency, which detailed the charges.