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China celebrates National Day before major party shake-up

October 01, 2012 15:12 IST

Bracing for a once-in-a-decade power change, China's top leadership on Monday appeared relaxed during the 63rd National Day celebrations, as they laid floral wreaths at Hero's Monument in Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

The old guard of Communist Party is set to hand over power to new leaders in November after staving off a bid by expelled leader Bo Xilai to wrest control of a key post.

Perhaps for the last time, President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who have led the party for the past 10 years, laid the floral wreaths at the Hero's Monument.

Vice President Xi Jinping and Vice Premier Li Keqiang, who are tipped to succeed Hu and Wen respectively, were part of the nine-member Standing Committee of the Politburo which took part in the ceremony.

They joined 3,600 representatives from all walks of life in Beijing in the ceremony to mark the anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China by Mao Zedong.

The country has virtually shut down for nearly a week to celebrate the mid-autumn festival.

Bo, who used to head the 30 million strong Chongqing city, had stepped up his pro-Maoist slogans and songs in an attempt to recreate the by-gone days of the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s.

Initially, Bo's Maoist logic appealed to vast sections of Chinese lower middle classes, who were caught in the lower income trap while those in power emerged as millionaires.

The party leadership -- headed by Hu and comprising loyalists of Mao's successor Deng Xiaoping -- kept a close watch on Bo's rise. They used the alleged role of his wife Gu Kailai in the murder of a British businessman and the defection of his close aide Wang Lijun to the United States Consulate in Chengdu to seek asylum to finish his career.

Wang's attempts to defect to US, fearing reprisals from Bo for probing the role of his wife Gu Kailai, has created a negative image of the pro-Maoist leader.

The party not only expelled him but also launched a publicity blitzkrieg highlighting his "scandalous" life, besides the damage Gu has caused with business deals with British businessman Neil Heywood, whom she subsequently confessed to have murdered.

She has been given a suspended death sentence while Wang has been given a 15-year jail sentence.

Bo's trial is expected to be completed ahead of the party Congress, to be held on November 8, to seal his fate once for all.

K J M Varma In Beijing
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