Supporters of China's disgraced senior politician Bo Xilai, who has been jailed for corruption, have set up a political party, two separate sources said, in a direct challenge to the ruling Communist Party's de facto ban on new political groups.
The Zhi Xian Party, literally "the constitution is the supreme authority" party, was formed on November 6, three days before the opening on Saturday of a key conclave of top Communist Party leaders to discuss much-needed economic reforms, the sources said.
It named Bo as "chairman for life", Wang Zheng, one of the party's founders and an associate professor of international trade at the Beijing Institute of Economics and Management, told Reuters by telephone.
"This is not illegal under Chinese law. It is legal and reasonable," Wang said.
A second source, who asked not to be identified but who has direct knowledge of the party's founding, confirmed the news.
Calls to the Communist Party's propaganda department seeking comment went unanswered.
The Communist Party has not allowed any opposition parties to be established since it came to power following the 1949 revolution, so history suggests it will not look kindly on this new party, even more so because its titular head is a former member of its top ranks.
Activists have been jailed in the past for setting up political parties, although parties have never before coalesced around fallen top political figures.
Asked if she was worried she would be arrested, Wang said: "We are not afraid. I don't think we will be arrested."
The new party announced its establishment by sending letters to the Communist Party, China's eight other political parties, parliament and the top advisory body to parliament, Wang said, adding that no ceremony was held.
It also sent a letter to Bo on Friday via the warden of his prison informing him that he would be their "chairman for life", she said. It was not immediately clear if Bo would agree.
The party was set up because it "fully agrees with Mr Bo Xilai's common prosperity" policy, according to a party document seen by Reuters, a reference to Bo's leftist egalitarian policies that won him so many supporters.
Asked if party members included Communists, government officials or People's Liberation Army officers, Wang said she could not discuss the matter to protect them because it was politically "sensitive".