Bo Xilai: China's fallen political star

BEIJING - Once a rising political star known for busting gangs and reviving Maoist ideals, China's Bo Xilai has suffered a dramatic fall from grace that now sees him linked to a suspected murder.

The 62-year-old was once a leading contender to enter the top rungs of power, but in a stunning reversal of fortune he was sacked as head of Chongqing city and late Tuesday suspended from the Communist Party's powerful Politburo.

In a deepening political scandal, his wife Gu Kailai has been named a suspect in the November 2011 homicide of British businessman Neil Heywood, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Xinhua said that Gu and and her son had been on "good terms" with Heywood, but that they fell out over "economic interests."

It also announced that Bo had been suspended from the 25-member Politburo and from the wider Central Committee for "serious discipline violations."

The move effectively ended Bo's hopes of promotion to the nine-member Politburo Standing Committee, China's most powerful political body, during a 10-yearly leadership transition slated for later this year.

Bo, a one-time commerce minister, was known for his suave and open demeanour which was seen as refreshing in a country where leaders are often rigid and emotionless in public.

But his media-savvy personality coupled with his "princeling" status as the son of a hero of China's revolution irritated some fellow politicians.

"He's very open, very confident, very charismatic and that's not the way most Chinese leaders behave and that is not the way they feel comfortable with their peers behaving," said Patrick Chovanec, a professor at Tsinghua University.

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