Bo Xilai: rise and fall of a political star in China

Bo Xilai: rise and fall of a political star in China

BEIJING - With a suave demeanour, well-cut suits and an easy smile, Bo Xilai presented, in his heyday, a stark contrast to the usual ranks of stiff, buttoned-up Chinese politicians.

But his open ambition and lobbying for promotion, coupled with his "princeling" status as the son of a hero of China's revolution, irritated some of his colleagues in the upper echelons of the ruling Communist Party.

His revival of "red" culture, sending officials to work in the countryside and pushing workers to sing revolutionary songs, also raised eyebrows. The ousted political star was sentenced by a court to life in prison on Sunday, convicted of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power in the country's highest-profile trial for decades.

During the five-day proceedings last month, Bo reinforced his larger-than-life persona with an unapologetic defence and grilling of witnesses.

Enjoying a rare chance as a Chinese defendant to speak out, he dismissed his wife as "insane" and a close aide as secretly being in love with her.

He admitted to having affairs himself, though he insisted on his modesty by saying his underwear was 50 years old.

Born in 1949 - the year the Party took power in China - Bo embraced his leftist streak despite tragedy suffered by his family during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, a decade of deadly chaos launched by then-leader Mao Zedong in which youths tormented their elders and officials were purged.

His father, revolutionary general Bo Yibo, was jailed and tortured and his mother beaten to death, while Bo Xilai himself spent time in a labour camp.

But after Mao died and reformist leader Deng Xiaoping took over, Bo Yibo was rehabilitated and became one of the most powerful men in China, a party "immortal" who retained influence over state affairs through the 1990s.

The father's outsized stature bestowed on the son an impeccable pedigree that long protected him - and may have also facilitated his rise through the ranks.

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