Jailed former Chongqing chief Bo Xilai has been released from prison, where he was serving a life prison term for corruption and abuse of power, after being granted medical parole following a diagnosis of liver cancer, RFA has learned.
Once a former rising star in the ruling Chinese Communist Party, Bo Xilai was jailed for life for corruption and abuse of power in September 2013, a month after his wife Gu Kailai was handed a suspended death sentence for the murder of a British businessman in the biggest political scandal to rock the party in decades.
The former member of the 25-member Politburo has been transferred to a medical facility on Bangchui island near Dalian, the northeastern port city where he also once held the top party job, an overseas source close to the Bo family told RFA on Tuesday.
The source, who asked to remain anonymous, said Bo had been diagnosed with liver cancer by doctors in Beijing's Qincheng Prison earlier this year.
Unlike dissident Liu Xiaobo, whose liver cancer is now beyond treatment, Bo's cancer is still at a fairly early stage, the source said.
RFA was unable to confirm the source's claims independently. The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not reply to RFA's request for a comment.
Drawing a parallel with the recent transfer of jailed dissident Liu to a Liaoning hospital with inoperable, late-stage liver cancer, a Beijing-based academic said the standard of medical care offered to a former high-ranking official like Bo in China's Qincheng Prison would be second-to-none.
"They all receive a certain standard of treatment in Qincheng, which is far, far better [than that available to Liu]," the academic said. "It is very good indeed, and the medical facilities are excellent."
Bo's ouster from office on March 15, 2012 came soon after an embarrassing Feb. 6 visit to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu by his former police chief and right-hand man Wang Lijun.
Bo's sudden departure also sparked online rumors of an alleged coup plot between him and former state security czar Zhou Yongkang, and references to "unofficial political activities" between the pair from the country's Supreme People's Court.
Anhui-based former state prosecutor Shen Liangqing said there is no comparison between Liu's peaceful advocacy of democratic, constitutional government and Bo's activities while in Dalian and Chongqing.
"Bo Xilai has committed very major crimes, including the purges of so many people during his 'revolutionary songs and anti-mafia' campaigns in Chongqing," Shen said.
"He used absolutely cruel and horrific methods to do that."
Bo's tenure in Chongqing saw reports of forced confessions and rights abuses during the campaigns, which won political plaudits at the time for Bo and his then police chief Wang Lijun.
Li Zhuang, a whistle-blowing lawyer who worked on a high-profile anti-gang case in 2009, said that many of those convicted in Chongqing at the height of Bo's anti-mafia campaigns were targeted purely for their wealth.
Bo was famed for his "strike black, sing red" campaigns during his tenure in the city as pensioners gathered daily to sing Mao Zedong era anthems.
But Li said that behind the headline-catching arrests and the Cultural Revolution kitsch, Bo and Wang ran a terror campaign that, while it did net some bona fide criminal bosses, also targeted innocent businessmen with the aim of taking over their assets.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.