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China sacks top leadership contender

China's Communist Party has replaced one of its most powerful and charismatic leaders in the wake of a scandal over the police chief of the city he oversaw. The move came as a surprise.

China's ruling Communist Party sacked Bo Xilai as its secretary in the south-western metropolis of Chongqing, the official Xinhau news agency said on Thursday.

"Comrade Bo Xilai will no longer hold the post of secretary, standing committee member or member of Chongqing city [party] committee," state media quoted the party's Central Committee as saying.

He was to be replaced by Deputy Premier Zhang Dejiang.

The 62-year-old Bo had come under pressure after his former police chief, Wang Lijun, apparently sought asylum at the US consulate in Chengdu.

Wang, who had been acclaimed by state-media as a "super cop," had been the enforcer in a crackdown on corruption, targeting gangs, politicians and police who protected them in the city of 32 million. The campaign had resulted in 2,000 arrests, 500 prosecutions and 13 executions. The authorities had, however, been criticized for lax attention to the law - particularly of due process - in the course of the crackdown.

Premier Wen Jiabao had rebuked Bo and other Chongqing leaders during a press conference on Wednesday, saying they should "seriously reflect upon and learn the lessons of the Wang Lijun affair."

Bo had been expected to join the Politburo's all-powerful, nine-member Standing Committee after the party congress in November. His removal puts an end - at least temporarily - to a promising career. It was not immediately clear whether he would retain his seat in the 25-member Politburo.

He had been Chongqing's party secretary since 2007, following a stint as China's commerce minister. The son of the revered revolutionary leader Bo Yibo, Bo Xilai gained notoriety with a cultural campaign, which included a revival of mass singing of socialist-inspired songs.-DW

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