China has urged support for its probe into disgraced leader Bo Xilai, a day after news of his dismissal and the detention of his wife over the death of British businessman Neil Heywood shocked the country.
A widely-published piece in party newspaper People’s Daily praised the “correct decision”, saying it showed respect for the rule of law.
Bo Xilai’s removal from key party posts was announced late on Tuesday.
It followed weeks of speculation over the former Chongqing party chief.
Bo Xilai, 62, was once tipped as a future leader. But he has now been removed from his posts on the Communist Party’s hugely powerful 25-member Politburo, and the 300-member Central Committee.
His wife, Gu Kailai, is being investigated in connection with the death of Neil Heywood, Chinese authorities have also announced.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague welcomed the news.
“The Chinese are doing as we asked them to do and we now look forward to seeing those investigations take place and in due course hearing the outcome of those investigations,” William Hague said.
Wang Feng of the Brookings-Tsinghua Centre for Public Policy described the scandal as “almost unprecedented in China’s political history”.
“For the last 30 years this is the biggest scandal we can think of,” he said.
The news of the action against Bo Xilai and his wife emerged late on Tuesday.
”The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) has decided to suspend his membership of the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau and the CPC Central Committee,” said an announcement by state news agency Xinhua.
Bo Xilai’s wife, Gu Kailai has been “transferred to the judicial authorities on suspected crime of intentional homicide” together with Zhang Xiaojun, an orderly who worked for the Bo family, another Xinhua report said.
The subsequent front-page People’s Daily commentary, entitled “Firm support for correct decision” and republished in the main Chinese newspapers, said that the right action had been taken.
”Bo has seriously violated the party discipline, causing damage to the cause and the image of the party and state,” the commentary said.
”Whoever has broken the law will be handled in accordance with law and will not be tolerated, no matter who is involved.”
China’s internet censorship now appears to have kicked into action. Microblogging site Sina Weibo and online forum Baidu Tieba were both filtering posts containing the words ”Bo Xilai” on Wednesday.
Bo Xilai’s fall from grace began after his police chief Wang Lijun spent a day holed up in the US consulate in Chengdu in early February. It was rumored that Wang Lijun had been attempting to defect.
The suggestion was that he had been demoted by an angry Bo Xilai after the officer had alerted him to the fact that his family was the subject of a police investigation linked to Neil Heywood’s death.
While in the consulate Wang Lijun alleged that Gu Kailai had been involved in murdering Neil Heywood, Xinhua reported.
The 41-year-old was found dead in Chongqing in November 2011. Police initially said that he died from excessive drinking.
The allegations led to a second investigation. Xinhua said Gu Kailai and her son were in “conflict” with Neil Heywood over “economic issues”.
“According to reinvestigation results, the existing evidence indicated that Heywood died of homicide, of which [Gu Kailai] and Zhang Xiaojun, an orderly at Bo’s home, are highly suspected,” the news agency reported.
The exact nature of Neil Heywood’s role and his relations with the family are unclear and have been the subject of much speculation inside and outside China.