China's Bo Xilai expelled from Communist Party

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Disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai has been expelled from the ruling Communist party, state media said Sunday, clearing the way for him to face criminal trial.

The decision, made at a meeting of 500 top party officials that ended in Beijing on Sunday, precedes a ten-yearly power handover at a broader party Congress that opens on Thursday and 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.

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

The former party boss in the central city of Chongqing was once seen as a candidate for promotion to the party's top echelons.

He 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.

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

State media said last month that Bo had been placed under criminal investigation after he was expelled from the country's parliament and stripped of his legal immunity.

The central committee during its four-day meeting also agreed to expel former Railways Minister Liu Zhijun, who was sacked last year for allegedly taking more than 800 million yuan ($127 million) in bribes and now awaits trial.

Separately it named two central committee members, Fan Changlong and Xu Qiliang, as vice chairmen of the Central Military Commission, following a series of military leadership reshuffles in recent weeks.

The committee also approved a draft amendment to the party constitution, Xinhua reported without giving details.

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