China’s top Communist Party newspaper on Thursday urged the country to unite behind the ruling party, as it seeks to minimise the fallout from the high-profile purge of top leader Bo Xilai.
A front-page commentary in the People’s Daily – mouthpiece of the party – urged Chinese people to “fully understand the great significance” of rising star Bo’s suspension from the party, which had provoked “strong reactions”.
“Chinese people should firmly support the correct decision, and unite around the (party leadership) to push forward the cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics,” it said.
State media announced late Tuesday that Bo, the charismatic former party leader of Chongqing city once tipped for the very highest echelons of power in China, had been suspended from the powerful 25-member Politburo.
That was followed by the shock revelation, in a brief dispatch on the official Xinhua news agency, that his wife Gu Kailai was being investigated over the murder of British businessperson Neil Heywood, who died in November.
Chinese web users reacted with concern to the announcements, which confirmed China’s biggest public party upheaval since a purge before the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.
Online searches for the names of Bo and his wife and son as well as terms including “investigate” and “political struggle” were quickly blocked under China’s vast online censorship system.
Analysts say the rare, public scandal has exposed deep rifts within the ruling party ahead of a once-in-a-decade leadership transition due to take place later this year.
Before his downfall, Bo had been tipped to become a member of the party’s Standing Committee – the apex of political power in China – when seven of its nine members step down in the autumn.
The 62-year-old’s revival of “red” culture – including sending officials to work in the countryside and pushing workers to sing revolutionary songs – drew accolades from the traditionalist left of the party.
But his high-profile campaign and brutal onslaught on allegedly corrupt businesspeople and officials, coupled with his “princeling” status as the son of a hero of China’s revolution, alienated many in the party.