China learnt "profound lesson" from Bo Xilai scandal, party says

BEIJING Wed Nov 7, 2012 3:39pm IST

Bo Xilai (2nd R), then Governor of Liaoning Province, pauses at the China Entrepreneur Annual Meeting 2003 in Beijing in this December 7, 2003 file photo. REUTERS/Jason Lee/Files

Bo Xilai (2nd R), then Governor of Liaoning Province, pauses at the China Entrepreneur Annual Meeting 2003 in Beijing in this December 7, 2003 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Lee/Files

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China learnt a profound lesson from the Bo Xilai scandal and the Communist Party will make fighting corruption a top priority, a party spokesman said on Wednesday.

Bo, once a contender for top leadership in the world's second-largest economy, was ousted in China's biggest political scandal in two decades earlier this year.

"Our country is a society in transition, the phenomenon of corruption happens easily and often and is a long-term and arduous task for the party (to tackle)," spokesman Cai Mingzhao told a news conference a day before a key congress begins which will usher in a generational leadership change.

"The issues of Bo Xilai and Liu Zhijun ... occurred at senior levels within the party and are serious corruption cases; the lessons (learnt) were extremely profound," Cai said, referring also to a railways minister sacked for graft last year.

Cai pledged that the party would "strengthen supervision" and "accelerate the formation of a system for punishing and preventing corruption, and gradually eliminate the breeding ground for corruption".

Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, and his former police chief, Wang Lijun, have both been jailed over the scandal that stemmed from the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood while Bo was Communist Party chief of the southwestern city of Chongqing.

The government has accused Bo of corruption and of bending the law to hush up the murder. Prosecutors formally began a criminal probe into Bo last month but have yet to announce charges.

The congress will see President Hu Jintao will give up his position as head of the party to anointed successor Vice President Xi Jinping. The presidency is then transferred next March at the annual meeting of parliament.

(Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Ben Blanchard and Sui-Lee Wee)

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