Profile: Bo Xilai

Tipped as a future leader, the 62 year old’s fall from power has caused a political earthquake in China.

Bo Xilai, a rising political star, has been accused of bribery, corruption and abuse of power [Reuters]

Bo Xilai was a rising political star in Communist China, whose fortunes have suddenly nosedived, following an unexpected turn of events.

The 62-year-old ruled the large metropolis of Chongqing with an iron grip and was tipped until recently for higher office.

But in March 2012, he was suspended as head of Chongqing city and in April that year, from the Communist Party’s powerful 25-member Politburo. 

The suspensions came after the government accused Bo of corruption and bending the law to hush up the November 2011 murder of Neil Heywood, a British businessman, following the naming of Gu Kailai, Bo’s wife, as a suspect.

Kailai was later convicted in that case, and In July 2013, the once-powerful Bo Xilai himself was indicted for bribery, corruption, and abuse of power.

Bo “took the advantage of his position to seek profits for others and  accepted an ‘extremely large amount’ of money and properties,” a court in Jinan in the eastern province of Shandong said, quoting the indictment.

On top of that, his brother, Bo Xiyong, resigned as vice char of China Everbright International “in order to minimise any possible advers impact on the company of certain reports recently published by the media on his family background,” said a company notice in April 2012.

Bo’s fall from grace has ended his aspirations for a spot on the nine-member Politburo Standing Committee, the country’s most powerful polticial body.

The abruptness of his sacking has also bewildered ordinary citizens and set tongues wagging.

There is a speculation that his fall could be linked to a power struggle, as the party’s senior leadership gears up for a transition of power later this year.

Privileged background

Born in 1949, the son of Communist general Bo Yibo, Bo was raised in privileged surroundings in Beijing.

During Mao’s Cultural Revolution in 1966, he joined an elite Red Guard group, comprising the teenage children of high-ranking officials.

Al Jazeera’s Melissa Chan reports from Chongqing after the sacking of Bo Xilai

But Bo’s parents were among those purged: his mother was beaten to death; his father survived.

When Mao died and Deng Xiaoping took over in 1978, Bo’s father was rehabilitated and became one of the most powerful men in China, bestowing on his son an impeccable family pedigree that protected him.

Bo took a master’s degree in journalism, which made him stand out in the crowd of engineers and scientists who make up China’s political elite.

For nearly two decades from 1985, he was based in China’s northeastern rust belt, first as mayor of Dalian, a decaying port city which he is credited with transforming into a modern investment hub.

He then became governor of Liaoning province, where Dalian is located, and in 2004 entered the national stage as China’s commerce minister, dazzling foreign counterparts with his modern style.

During that time, Bo hosted many foreign visitors, including the-then EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, with whom he appeared to be on friendly terms.

Many thought he would cease to be in the limelight when he moved to Chongqing in 2007. But he stayed in the headlines, courtesy his crackdown on the mafia and campaign to revive Mao’s ideology.

He won both friends and foes in the process.

Al Jazeera’s Melissa Chan says: “His supporters saw him as a good Communist, but others, including the Premier Wen Jiabao, did not like him, saying he diverged too far from the party line.”

Bo’s political fate was effectively sealed when his former right-hand man, Chongqing’s former police chief Wang Lijun, turned up at the US consulate in neighbouring Chengdu city in early February, reportedly asking for asylum.

Wang was said to have tried to flee after Bo attempted to quell evidence linking his wife Gu to the death of Heywood.

The scandal has ensured that Bo stays in the limelight, even after his dramatic fall.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies