Beijing's ruling Chinese Communist Party has transferred the case of fallen political star Bo Xilai to the judiciary, marking the beginning of criminal proceedings, although analysts said Wednesday a trial is not expected soon.
"The serious law violation case involving Bo Xilai, former member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, has been transferred to judicial organs, according to CPC's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection," the official China Daily newspaper reported.
The news was also announced via state-run broadcaster CCTV, who said Commission chief Cui Shaopeng had announced it at an official meeting.
Investigations into former railways minister Liu Zhijun and two other provincial-level officials also suspected of "serious discipline violations" had been similarly transferred, the China Daily said.
Beijing-based political analyst Gao Yu said the authorities were unlikely to move ahead quickly with Bo's trial, however.
"The judicial authorities have already taken the case and begun investigations," Gao said. "But I think it's doubtful that they will try him before the parliamentary sessions [in March]."
The Party expelled Bo—former Party chief of Chongqing municipality—from its ranks in October, following accusations of corruption and sexual misconduct, removing his parliamentary privilege and paving the way for a criminal trial.
Bo was judged to bear "major responsibility" in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, for which his wife Gu Kailai was handed a suspended death sentence on Aug. 20, official media reports said at the time.
His former right-hand man and Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun was jailed for 15 years in September for "bending the law for selfish ends," "abuse of power," and "defection," after his Feb. 6 visit to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu brought the murder scandal to public attention.
Digging into the past
But Gao said it wasn't only Bo's actions in Chongqing that were being investigated, and that plenty of evidence needed to be amassed from his days as mayor of the northeastern port city of Dalian.
"This is a very complicated case, because they have to take into account his time in Dalian; it's a long time-span," she said. "It took them two years to try [former Beijing mayor] Chen Xitong from his case moving to the judiciary, and more than a year to try [former Shanghai chief] Chen Liangyu."
"I don't think it's certain at all that Bo will stand trial before the parliamentary sessions," in March.
China's new leadership, headed by president-in-waiting Xi Jinping, has warned that the Party must tackle corruption if it is to remain in power.
To that end, the new administration has banned lavish official functions and special traffic controls for official visits, as well as moving ahead with high-profile cases like Bo's.
But analysts see Bo's fall as having more to do with factional infighting within the Party than as evidence that the fight against graft is genuine.
A Beijing political affairs commentator, who asked to be identified only by his surname Huang, said the announcement about Bo's case had come just days after president-in-waiting Xi Jinping gave a speech to the Party cadre school in Beijing that indicated there is still plenty of internal debate about Bo's treatment at the hand of the authorities.
"Xi made a speech [last week] at the Party school in which he evaluated the last 60 years of history," Huang said. "You can't really speak of the two 30-year periods in the same breath, though, because if we hadn't repudiated the Cultural Revolution, we couldn't have had economic reforms."
He said Xi's speech, given to a cadre school event on "the spirit of the 18th Party Congress" had puzzled a lot of people, who weren't sure if he understood the ramifications of what he had said.
Huang added that people at the conference weren't uniformly behind Bo's fall. "Lots of people were saying, 'Don't do away with Bo Xilai; let Bo Xilai come back,'" he said. "This all created quite a stir in intellectual circles in Beijing."
Gao agreed, adding: "I don't think this will be an open trial like that of the Gang of Four [that marked the end of the Cultural Revolution]," she said.
"Definitely not, because there are still a lot of people who would come out in support of Bo Xilai; the entire left-wing of the Party supports him."
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.