Meetings begin behind closed doors on China's political future


THE LEADERS of China’s Communist Party have begun a meeting behind closed doors to decide on the details of a power transition to the next generation of leaders and to complete the purge of disgraced former leader Bo Xilai.

The plenum of the 17th Communist Party Central Committee is the last gathering of the top cadres before the party congress, which starts on Thursday.

It is a secretive affair, at which the various competing factions within the Communist Party horse-trade for position, but little is known of what goes on as the whole process is in secret and riddled with intrigue.

The meeting will probably last four days. It will be closely watched for clues about the congress agenda and also about who will make up the all-powerful politburo standing committee.

“The 18th Communist Party of China National Congress is a very important meeting to be held at a key time when China is working to build a moderately prosperous society in all respects, and at a crucial time when the country is deepening reform and opening up and accelerating the transformation of its economic development pattern,” the Global Times newspaper said in an editorial.

The congress is expected to name leaders for the next 10 years.

Vice president Xi Jinping, who visited Ireland earlier this year, is set to succeed President Hu Jintao, while vice premier Li Keqiang will likely replace outgoing premier Wen Jiabao.

China analysts are watching closely for details on who will be on the standing committee. It is expected to include Mr Xi, Li Keqiang and five others. There is some debate about whether there will be seven or nine members.

Security is tight in Beijing ahead of the congress. In many taxi cabs, the handles have been removed to improve security.

The backdrop to the congress next week is less than ideal. The scandal surrounding Mr Bo, who a year ago was a candidate for the politburo’s standing committee, has unsettled many in the ranks.

It has been fairly widely flagged that the plenum will conclude with a formal decision to oust him.

Last week the one-time rising star was stripped of his parliament seat and lost legal immunity, paving the way for possible criminal charges of abuse of power, taking bribes and improper sexual relations.

The leadership will also not have been happy about a New York Times report last week which claimed that Mr Wen’s family had accumulated nearly €2.1 billion in assets, which flew in the face of Grandpa Wen’s carefully cultivated image as a man of the people.

Meanwhile, a court in the southwestern Kunming province has sentenced Cao Haibo (27) to eight years in prison for “subversion of state power” for trying to form an opposition party and for online messages criticising the party.

Mr Cao ran an internet café and sent messages using a popular messaging service. His “party” existed for just one day. His lawyers said he did not deserve to be punished criminally.

There have been many street demonstrations and marches over land grabs and corruption, most recently in Ningbo, where demonstrators protested against the building of a PX plant.

One of President Hu’s key allies was forced to quit after his son was killed alongside two reportedly partially dressed women in an accident in his Ferrari.

The usual security measures, restricting kite-flying and pigeon-racing, have been introduced, while shops have been told not to put knives on the shelves.