The expulsion of former political heavyweight Bo Xilai from China's communist party in combination with a slew of criminal accusations, including graft and having improper relations with a series of women, appears to show how threatened party leaders felt by Bo's alleged misdeeds.
The announcement, reported Friday by the state-run Xinhua news agency, was far more than many expected, said Kerry Brown, the Director of China Studies at the University of Sydney in Australia. In an interview with VOA's Sarah Williams, Brown said "They've really gone for the jugular."
Brown: "I thought they were going to take a more legalistic route and go for corruption [charges]. But this is a real, full-scale character defamation. Obviously they feel emboldened to just throw everything they've got at the guy... this is been a profound crisis, probably a more profound crisis than we were aware of as it was happening and there is sort of a profound feeling within the party that Bo had threatened them."
VOA: This seems quite unusual that they would make such claims about a Chinese politician – his personal life. That's fairly unusual, isn't?
Brown: "Yeah... this is something that I thought wouldn't happen this time because I assumed they were going to pursue a very legal route and just do it that way. I guess we underestimate just how profound the traction of a figure like Bo was in the party and the kind of threat that he posed. He's obviously gone up the noses of some very, very powerful people and they're willing to take the kind of risk of this incredible attack against someone to just to totally destroy any kind of influence they have. This is quite a strike, you know.... I suppose this shows you, we also, in following this process, are really not that aware of the dynamics within China at the moment. It's quite worrying."
VOA: In addition, Xinhua also reported that China's 18th party Congress, which is been long anticipated, apparently will begin the process of transferring power to a new generation of leaders on November 8, a bit later than originally thought.
Brown: "Yeah....traditionally it's been held in October, but there's no ironclad rule for that being the case. So I suppose we can say negotiations over the leadership positions have been more prolonged than people thought. But now I think the party basically needs to calm everyone down. I mean it’s very frenetic and everyone is
getting kind of wound up. They just need to make it clear that all things are under control and this leadership succession will be able to happen without a political
VOA: This Bo development is happening at such an inopportune time, isn't it?
Brown: "There never would have been a good time. The drama around Bo Xilai is something that had to be managed when it happened. So far there has been unity. Always unexpected things can happen. So I suppose when we sit back and look at this, we really have to say'"well every step of the way it's been slightly unexpected'... we didn't – certain experts on this issue inside and outside China – never really called this one right from the word go. So I think we have to have some sort of modesty about saying what's going to happen, because anything really could."