China's Communist Party says its decision to pursue charges against disgraced politician Bo Xilai shows it is serious about cracking down on rampant corruption within its ranks.
He Guoqiang, the party's top disciplinary official, was quoted in state media Tuesday as saying the case against the once-powerful Bo should serve as a warning to other corrupt officials that they will be "relentlessly pursued."
He, who heads the party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, said more than 660,000 officials have already been punished for corruption over the past five years.
The highest-profile case is that of Bo, who was expelled from the party last month and accused of charges ranging from corruption to illicit sexual affairs. Bo's wife has already been convicted of murdering a British businessman over a financial dispute.
The case has embarrassed the party and publicly revealed the extent to which corruption has infiltrated its highest ranks. The charges against Bo span more than a decade, covering the period of time in which he was able to attain to one of the most powerful positions in the country.
The scandal comes at a particularly sensitive time for the Communist Party, which has painstakingly attempted to ensure a calm transition of power that begins with the 18th National Congress next month. During that transition, Bo was expected to be named to the party's elite nine-member Politburo Standing Committee.
The party has previously acknowledged that widespread corruption is a threat to its legitimacy, but its various anti-graft campaigns have not been successful.
The famously secretive Communist Party handles most of the corruption cases against its officials internally. In his speech Monday to the party's anti-coordination committee, He said that less than four percent of the corruption charges against officials were referred to the judicial system for suspected crimes.
While He acknowledged public anger over corruption, he said that investigating corruption is a "long-term task" in the process of building a clean government.