China's Bo Xilai expelled from Communist Party

BEIJING - Disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai has been formally expelled from the ruling Communist party, state media said Sunday, in a decision made at a meeting of top party officials that ended just days ahead of a broader once-a-decade power handover.

The decision, which clears the way for Bo to face criminal trial, came at a gathering of 500 top party officials that wrapped up in Beijing. The ten-yearly power handover, scheduled for a party Congress that opens Thursday, had been dogged by the Bo scandal.

The party's Central Committee "endorsed a decision by the Political Bureau ... to expel Bo Xilai", Xinhua news agency said, referring to the party's top decision-making body.

Xinhua added that the Political Bureau decision was taken on September 28.

The months-long controversy surrounding Bo had exposed deep divisions in the top leadership ahead of the sensitive power transition.

The former party boss in the central mega-city of Chongqing was once seen as a candidate for promotion to the party's top echelons but was brought down earlier this year by murder allegations against his wife that came to light after his police chief sought refuge in a US consulate.

Gu Kalai was later given a suspended death sentence - a judgment commonly commuted to a life sentence - for fatally poisoning British businessman Neil Heywood.

State media said in September that Bo would "face justice" for alleged crimes. In October he was expelled from the country's parliament and stripped of his legal immunity.

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