China’s largely rubber stamp parliament has expelled disgraced former senior politician Bo Xilai, state news agency Xinhua said on Friday, paving the way for formal criminal charges to be laid against him.
The expulsion removes Bo’s immunity from prosecution as a member of parliament. Xinhua said the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s parliament, “announced the termination of Bo Xilai’s post” as the deputy to the parliament.
The announcement comes a fortnight before the Communist Party holds a key congress, which opens on November 8, that will unveil the country’s new central leadership.
Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, and his former police chief, Wang Lijun, have both been jailed over the scandal, which stems from the murder of British businessperson Neil Heywood while Bo was Communist Party chief of the southwestern city of Chongqing.
The government last month accused Bo of corruption and of bending the law to hush up the murder.
Before Bo is charged and tried, investigators must first complete an inquiry and indict him, but China’s prosecutors and courts come under party control and are unlikely to challenge the accusations.
A lawyer for Bo, who has been employed by the family to represent him, said on Thursday he was unable to say whether the government would allow him to represent Bo when the case comes to trial.
“It’s theatre,” said Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, a New York-based advocacy group, who spoke before Bo’s expulsion was announced.
“The judiciary grinds into action only when the outcome has been determined. There is no indication we will see a genuine trial because Bo knows too much.”
Bo, 63, was widely seen as pursuing a powerful spot in the new leadership before his career unraveled after Wang fled to a US consulate for more than 24 hours in February and alleged that Bo’s wife had poisoned Heywood.