Bo Xilai was Chongqing's Communist Party Chief, and he was instrumental in transforming Chongqing into the sprawling megacity it is today. He was notable for his hard-handed crackdown on the city's organised crime and in promoting China's communist past by bringing back 'red songs' - patriotic songs which glorify the Communist Party - back to Chongqing's streets and media.

The spark that started a fire


On 2 February 2012, Chongqing's police chief Wang Lijun, who publicly has close ties with Bo Xilai's family, was demoted to a lesser position. This is the first public confirmation that Wang has fallen out with Bo. Four days later, Wang allegedly visited the US consulate in Chengdu, near Chongqing to seek political asylum. It was said that he claimed to possess evidence incriminating top Chinese party officials, and feared for his safety. He was later escorted to Beijing by Chinese security agents.

On 15 March, Bo Xilai is stripped from his position as Chongqing's party chief, and he was suspended from the Communist Party's politburo and Central Committee. There are a few reasons which were speculated to be the cause of his removal:
  • His hard-handed crackdown on corruption and criminal practices, which include the removal of city officials involved in criminal syndicates, irked many. They framed Bo in a plot for vengeance.
  • Bo himself is involved in corruption
  • His poor handling of the Wang Lijun incident (Wang is the police chief who went to seek refuge at the US consulate) cost him his trust among China's top leaders. Premier Wen Jiabao did indirectly criticise Bo's handling of the incident.

In a dramatic turn of events, a leaked audio recording suggests that Bo Xilai and Wang Lijun fell out when the police chief told his boss of an investigation into Mr Bo's family. Another rumour suggests Mr Bo could be linked to the death of a British businessman, Neil Heywood, who died in Chongqing last November.

It was later announced that Bo's wife is being investigated for Heywood's murder. Speculation was rife. It is thought that Gu Kailai asked Heywood to help her move a large sum of money overseas, and she became angry and plotted to kill Heywood after he demanded a larger cut (or commission) of the transfer, else he will expose her possibly illegal dealings.

Sources:

Key Players


The BBC has profiled the key players of the Bo Xilai scandal in the followign article. (Source: Bo Xilai scandal: Key players, BBC)

The suspected murder of British businessman Neil Heywood in the sprawling south-western Chinese city of Chonqing has gripped people both in China and around the world.

It has led to the dismissal of Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai and a murder investigation, which names his wife Gu Kailai as a suspect.

But the ramifications of the case are wider having triggered one of the biggest scandals to hit China's Communist Party in recent times, and exposing political divisions behind the scenes.

Bo Xilai

The once-popular politician Mr Bo was a favourite to be promoted this year
The once-popular politician Mr Bo was a favourite to be promoted this year

Bo Xilai, 62, was once a top politician tipped for high office.
He has been described as the nearest thing China has to a Western-style politician.
Son of a famous communist hero, he ran the big coastal city of Dalian and became commerce minister before becoming Communist Party chief of Chongqing.
Mr Bo is known for launching two high-profile campaigns in Chongqing - one to promote China's communist past and the other to crack down on the city's organised crime.
He was also known to be at home in front of the cameras and enjoyed pushing his policies in public.
The scandal surrounding the death of Mr Heywood, however, and the incident involving his former aide Wang Lijun's visit to the US consulate appear to have triggered his fall from grace.
Mr Bo was removed as Chongqing party chief on 15 March. It was reported on 10 April that he had also been suspended from the Communist Party's hugely powerful 25-member politburo and Central Committee.
He is now under investigation by the Communist Party for "serious discipline violations".


Neil Heywood

Circumstances surrounding Mr Heywood's death have caused a political scandal in China
Circumstances surrounding Mr Heywood's death have caused a political scandal in China

The death of 41-year-old British businessman Neil Heywood is at the heart of the scandal.
Born in 1970, Mr Heywood was educated at Harrow School and Warwick University.
He had lived in China from the early 1990s, where he learned fluent Mandarin. He was a consultant to foreign businesses seeking investment in China, setting up several companies and advising clients.
Mr Heywood married a Chinese woman, Wang Lulu, and had two children with her.
It was while living in the north-eastern port city of Dalian in the mid-1990s that he met the mayor, Bo Xilai, and his wife Gu Kailai.
By 2007, Mr Bo had been appointed Communist Party chief of Chongqing. While the full extent of Mr Bo and Mr Heywood's association is not clear, their relationship became strained by 2010, according to some reports.
Mr Heywood was found dead on 15 November 2011 at a hotel in Chongqing.
Chongqing's Public Security Bureau told British consular officials of Mr Heywood's death by fax. Chinese officials said the cause of his death was "overconsumption of alcohol", which surprised many friends who remember a man who drank in moderation.
Mr Heywood's body was then cremated, a decision taken by his family.
Unconfirmed reports in China have since suggested Mr Heywood may have died from cyanide poisoning.

Gu Kailai

Gu Kailai, a lawyer by profession, is under investigation for homicide
Gu Kailai, a lawyer by profession, is under investigation for homicide

Gu Kailai, also known as Horus Kai, is said to be about 52 years old.
Her father was General Gu Jingsheng, a prominent revolutionary in the years before the Communist Party took power.
As a young girl, Ms Gu was forced to work in a butcher's and a textile factory during the chaotic Cultural Revolution.
Ms Gu met Mr Bo in 1984 in Liaoning province while on a field trip looking into environmental art. The couple have one son, Bo Guagua, who is now at Harvard University in the US.
Ms Gu studied law and has a masters in international politics from the prestigious Peking University. She qualified as a lawyer in 1988 and then opened the Kailai law firm in Beijing.
Fluent in English, she even wrote a book about her legal battles called Winning a Lawsuit in the US.
She was said to have closed down her law firm when Mr Bo became the Communist Party chief in Chongqing to avoid the impression that she was benefiting from his position.
China's state-run news agency Xinhua said Ms Gu had "economic interests" with Mr Heywood, and that there had been conflict over those interests that had "intensified".
On 10 April, China announced that she was under investigation for "suspicion of homicide" over Mr Heywood's death.

Wang Lijun

Wang Lijun previously enjoyed a close relationship with senior politician Bo Xilai
Wang Lijun previously enjoyed a close relationship with senior politician Bo Xilai

Wang Lijun, 52, was a popular police chief and vice-mayor in Chongqing who enjoyed close ties with Mr Bo before his demotion.
He started his career in law enforcement in 1984 in the Inner Mongolia region before moving to Chongqing in 2008.
He developed a reputation for being tough on organised crime and was even the subject of a TV drama, Iron-Blooded Police Spirits.
On 2 February, the Chongqing city government said Mr Wang had been shifted to another job - the first public confirmation of his falling out with Mr Bo.
He fled to the US consulate in Chengdu, near Chongqing, on 6 February. He spent the night at the consulate, which was by then surrounded by Chinese police. Many believe he went there to seek asylum.
He was persuaded to leave a day later. The Chongqing government said that because of over-work, Mr Wang was suffering from stress and was receiving "holiday-style medical treatment". In fact, he is under investigation and in detention.
Mr Wang made allegations about Mr Heywood's death while at the consulate, according to a ministerial statement from the UK Foreign Office on 17 April.

Zhou Yongkang

Zhou Yongkang was reported to be the only leading official who argued against sacking Bo
Zhou Yongkang was reported to be the only leading official who argued against sacking Bo

Zhou Yongkang, 69, is a member of the Chinese Politburo's nine-member Standing Committee, the most powerful committee in China.
He is also secretary of the Committee of Political and Legislative Affairs, which gives him control over police and security forces in China.
Before becoming head of China's Public Security Ministry in 2003, he was the party head in Sichuan Province.
While there, he gained a reputation for dealing firmly with any signs of dissent - coming down hard on Tibetan groups and the banned spiritual movement Falun Gong.
He also has a background in the oil industry, and was previously general manager of the China National Petroleum Corporation.
He is considered to have been Bo Xilai's mentor, and to be close to former President Jiang Zemin, who is still powerful.
Following the Bo Xilai scandal, there have been unverified rumours circulating on Chinese websites that Mr Zhou is under investigation and will be the next to go.
Sources claim that websites writing about Mr Zhou and Mr Bo have been censored or subjected to cyber attacks.
Any move against Mr Zhou would be seen as further evidence of political in-fighting in China in advance of the once-in-a-decade leadership reshuffle later this year.

Wen Jiabao

Wen Jiabao, China's premier, is widely considered a reformist.
Wen Jiabao, China's premier, is widely considered a reformist.


Both Mr Wen and President Hu Jintao are scheduled to move on following China's leadership reshuffle later this year.
Bo Xilai's dismissal has been interpreted by some as part of a political struggle between supporters of former president Jiang Zemin, and supporters of Mr Wen and Mr Hu, who are considered to be more open to reform.
Mr Wen indirectly criticised Bo Xilai at his last National People's Congress news conference in April.
Although he did not name Mr Bo directly, he said that local authorities must ''seriously'' reflect and learn from the Wang Lijun incident.
He also touched on China's Cultural Revolution, a chaotic 10-year period when normal life was turned on its head.
He warned that China could experience a similar period of instability without political reforms, and that "the mistakes of the Cultural Revolution… have yet to be fully eliminated".
This was seen as criticism of Bo Xilai's approach in Chongqing.
Mr Bo had enjoyed reminding people of the days of the Cultural Revolution, by sending volunteers into the countryside and giving rousing speeches about China's communist past - moves that gained him many left-wing supporters.

Bo Guagua

external image Bo-Guagua_2229649b.jpgBo Xilai's son, Bo Guagua, is 24.
The Oxford-and-Harvard educated Bo Guagua has been the subject of rumours for some time because of his apparently lavish lifestyle.
He studied at one of Britain's most expensive private schools, Harrow, before going on to Oxford University.
He has been described as a younger member amongst China's "princelings" - the descendants of revolutionary leaders - who are often criticised for the privileges they enjoy.
Photographs that appear to show him enjoying himself at parties have whizzed around internet sites.
Speaking at a political meeting just before he was removed from office, Bo Xilai hit back at the rumours surrounding his family.
Bo Guagua, who is currently studying at Harvard, wrote an open letter to the university newspaper insisting he does not live an extravagant lifestyle.
He says his education has been funded by scholarships and his mother's earnings as a lawyer.
There have been reports that Mr Heywood helped Bo Guagua gain admission into Harrow.

Updates:

18 July 2012 - French architect Patrick Devillers, who has alleged links to Bo Xilai has left Cambodia for China. He was detained on 13 June at the request of China, and later left for China on his own "free will" to act as a potential witness.

26 July 2012 - Gu Kailai, wife of Bo Xilai, has been charged with the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.