Solar Impulse 2 has taken off in its sixth flight from Chongqing in western-central China to Nanjing in the east.
The zero-fuel airplane started to fly around the world in Abu Dhabi, UAE on March 9.
Solar Impulse 2 was only supposed to stay a few hours in Chongqing after arriving from Myanmar (Burma), but poor weather grounded the plane for three weeks.
The team is now confident conditions will remain fair for the Nanjing leg.
Getting to eastern China would set up the project for its greatest challenge yet – a five-day, five-night crossing to Hawaii.
The latest leg saw Solar Impulse 2 leave the runway at Chongqing International Airport at just after 06:00 local time, on April 21. Project chairman, Bertrand Piccard, is again at the controls of the single-seater aircraft.
Bertrand Piccard is taking it in turns with CEO Andre Borschberg. But as the engineer in the partnership, Andre Borschberg wants to do the Hawaii leg, so Bertrand Piccard has elected to do both Chinese stages. He brought the plane in from Mandalay, Myanmar, to Chongqing, and is now flying the 1,200km to Nanjing as well. It should take him about 17 hours.
Once in Nanjing, the team will stay put for at least 10 days, carefully checking over the aircraft and running through a training program ahead of the first Pacific leg.
“I think 10 days is the time we need to get ready. Then we need to wait for a good weather window,” explained mission director Raymond Clerc.
“That could be three days; we could have to wait three weeks – because this leg is really the most important and is very complex. To go towards Hawaii could last five days and five nights.”
Nanjing is about 125 miles from the coast, very close to Shanghai. The first Pacific leg would cover a distance of more than 4,950 miles.
Bo Xilai has been expelled from the Communist Party and will face justice, Chinese state media say.
Bo Xilai, the ex-Communist Party leader in the city of Chongqing, is accused of abuse of power and corruption.
His wife, Gu Kailai, was given a suspended death sentence in August for murdering British businessman Neil Heywood.
The scandal has overshadowed the party congress that will oversee China’s change of leadership. It will begin on 8 November, state media have announced.
Bo Xilai has been expelled from the Communist Party and will face justice
The Bo Xilai announcement ends months of speculation over the fate of a man who was once one of China’s most powerful politicians.
It is clear China’s leaders wanted to try to end the damaging revelations, with the once-in-a-decade leadership change looming.
Bo Xilai’s career is over and he will almost certainly spend time in jail.
He has not been seen in public since mid-March, shortly after the scandal erupted and it was announced he was under investigation. He was suspended from his party posts in April.
Reporting an official statement from a party leaders’ meeting, the state news agency, Xinhua, said Bo Xilai stood accused of corruption, abuse of power, bribe-taking and improper relations with women.
The statement carried by Xinhua said Bo Xilai “took advantage of his office to seek profits for others and received huge bribes personally and through his family”.
It added: “Bo’s behavior brought serious consequences, badly undermined the reputation of the party and the country, created very negative impact at home and abroad and significantly damaged the cause of the party and people.”
The statement urged “party organizations at all levels” to take heed of the “negative example” of the Bo Xilai case.
Xinhua said the violations included Bo Xilai’s time as an official in Dalian and Liaoning provinces, and as minister of commerce.
“Bo had affairs and maintained improper sexual relationships with a number of women,” the statement added.
Xinhua said Bo Xilai had been expelled from the party and the elite decision-making Politburo and Central Committee as he had “abused his power, made severe mistakes and bore major responsibility in the Wang Lijun incident and the intentional homicide case of [Gu Kailai]”.
Wang Lijun was Chongqing’s former police chief who was sentenced to 15 years in jail for ”bending the law, defection, abuse of power and bribetaking” in the Neil Heywood case.
The severity of the accusations against Bo Xilai surprised some observers, who had thought he might escape criminal prosecution.
“The party is very anxious to settle this contentious issue before the opening of the party congress,” Prof. Willy Lam of the Chinese University of Hong Kong told the Associated Press.
“So I think even though there are still powerful supporters and patrons of Bo Xilai, they have agreed to this stiff penalty to be meted out against Bo. And having settled this contentious issue, the party leadership is in a position to start the party congress with a facade of unity.”
There had been no formal word on the congress date until now, but many observers expected it in October. Prof. Willy Lam suggested that any delay had been because of “intensive competition among the various factions”.
There was speedy reaction to the latest news on China’s social media sites.
On Sina Weibo, Shenjing Jihua posted that Bo Xilai had “finally met his end”, adding: “So justice will prevail, and there is still hope for China.”
Although there were some postings in support of Bo Xilai, others broadened the affair into a critique of Chinese corruption.
Huaju Yanyuan on QQ.com said: “The case of Bo Xilai tells us that one overlooked event led to a series of troubles, and that there isn’t any clean official in China.”
The news came on the eve of a national holiday, raising suspicions the authorities wanted to bury the announcement, some observers note.
Xinhua has also announced that the party congress, which will herald the change of China’s leadership, will begin on 8 November.
The Bo Xilai scandal has been China’s biggest in decades and has cast a long shadow over the run-up to the congress, which is expected to see Xi Jinping replace Hu Jintao as president.
Bo Xilai, 63, had been a prime candidate for a top post before the scandal broke.
It started when Wang Lijun fled to a US consulate in February, alleging that Gu Kailai had poisoned Neil Heywood to death in November 2011.
Gu Kailai was convicted of killing Neil Heywood after a multi-million dollar business deal turned sour. Bo Xilai’s supporters have claimed from the start that he is being framed by his political enemies, correspondents say.
Gu Kailai, wife of disgraced top politician Bo Xilai, has admitted murdering British businessman Neil Heywood and blamed her actions on a mental breakdown, Chinese state media report.
The Xinhua news agency reports Gu Kailai has apologized for the “tragedy”.
She said she would “accept and calmly face any sentence”, the agency added.
Gu Kailai was charged with the murder of Neil Heywood, who was found dead in November 2011, in a one-day trial on Thursday.
Gu Kailai has admitted murdering Neil Heywood and blamed her actions on a mental breakdown
The prosecution alleged Gu kailai and her son Bo Guagua fell out with Neil Heywood over “economic interests” and that Gu Kailai was worried about “Neil Heywood’s threat to her son’s personal security”.
The Xinhua report said that Gu Kailai had addressed the court towards the end of its session, and said: “Those few days last November, when I saw how my son was in danger, I suffered a nervous breakdown. A tragedy happened because of me”.
Earlier on Friday, four senior police officers admitted covering up evidence linking Gu Kailai to the murder, a court official said.
The dates for the verdicts in both trials are yet to be announced.
The case appears to have ended the career of Chongqing’s ex-leader Bo Xilai, who had been seen as a likely candidate for a top job in the leadership transition due later this year.
Seven members of the nine-strong politburo Standing Committee are due to retire, paving the way for a new generation of leaders.
But former high-flier Bo Xilai, a populist and an ambitious politician, has not been seen in public since the investigation into his wife was announced.
Earlier this week, Bo Guagua, the son of fallen Chinese politician Bo Xilai, has been fighting claims of his playboy lifestyle and denied that he ever drove a Ferrari.
However, an official with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation said Bo Guagua, currently a Harvard graduate student, received three traffic tickets over the course of two years while driving a black Porsche.
According to state records, Bo Guagua received two citations for running a stop sign, and another for speeding – he was caught going 58 in a 30 mph zone.
The official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the story, said that Bo Guagua was driving a 2011 Porsche Panamera, though the car was not licensed to him, CNN reported.
Bo Guagua painted himself as a sympathetic character in a letter to the Harvard Crimson student newspaper published Tuesday.
In it, Bo Xilai’ son said he attended social events as an Oxford University undergraduate to broaden his perspective.
Bo Xilai is believed to have been a leading candidate for one of the nine seats on the ruling Communist Party’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, but his political career is now considered over.
He fell out of favor with some in the leadership over his flashy personal style, suspected corruption, and the excesses of a dual campaign to fight gangsters and promote Mao Zedong-era Communist culture in the southwestern mega-city of Chongqing.
Bo Guagua hit out at claims that he had cashed in on his parents’ wealth and influence by spending more partying than studying while he was at Oxford University.
He became renowned for hosting champagne and shisha parties in his room at Balliol College, where he read Politics, Philosophy and Economics.
Bo Guagua hit out at claims that he had cashed in on his parents’ wealth and influence by spending more partying than studying while he was at Oxford University
It was also claimed that Bo Guagua’s performance fell short of what was expected and he was made to sit “penal” exams.
But in an extraordinary twist – and in an astonishing example the influence of Bo Guagua’s parents before their spectacular fall from grace – Chinese officials tried to intervene to prevent tutors from disciplining him over his lack of work, it is understood.
However, Bo Guagua – the son of former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai and his lawyer wife Gu Kailai – did not refer to all these allegations.
In a statement published by the Harvard Crimson student newspaper, he:
• Dismissed claims he has an obsessive love for luxury cars, writing: “I have never driven a Ferrari”;
• Said his academic record was “solid” and had earned a string of top grades – although failed to address the penal exam claims;
• Admitted that he “participated in <<Bops>>”, a type of common Oxford social event – but did not mention the parties in his room; and
• Insisted he had never “lent my name to nor participated in any for-profit business or venture, in China or abroad”.
In the statement, Bo Guagua said he felt compelled to provide “an account of the facts” in response to speculation about his private life and family.
Bo Guagua wrote: “Recently, there has been increasing attention from the press on my private life. As a result of these speculations, I feel responsible to the public to provide an account of the facts.
“I am deeply concerned about the events surrounding my family, but I have no comments to make regarding the ongoing investigation.
“It is impossible to address all of the rumors and allegations about myself, but I will state the facts regarding some of the most pertinent claims.”
Bo Guagua also sought to dampen speculation about financial improprieties over his costly overseas tuition, explaining the fees had been covered by “scholarships earned independently, and my mother’s generosity from the savings she earned from her years as a successful lawyer and writer”.
The New York Times has recently reported that Bo Xilai ran a wire-tapping system that extended as far as China’s president Hu Jintao.
Citing “nearly a dozen people with party ties”, the New York Times said the disgraced Bo Xilai ran a wire-tapping network across Chongqing, where he was party chief.
His officials even listened to a phone call involving Hu Jintao, the paper said.
Chinese authorities have not mentioned wire-tapping in reports about Bo Xilai, whose wife, Gu kailai, is being investigated over the death of British businessman, Neil Heywood.
They are investigating Bo Xilai over “serious discipline violations”, while Gu Kailai has been detained as a suspect in the death of Neil Heywood, found dead in Chongqing in November 2011.
Chinese authorities say they believe Neil Heywood was murdered.
The New York Times has recently reported that Bo Xilai ran a wire-tapping system that extended as far as China's president Hu Jintao
Bo Xilai – a high flier once expected to reach the top echelons of office – has not been seen in public since he was removed from his political posts, in the biggest political shake-up in China in years.
Bo Xilai’s wire-tapping operation began several years ago as part of an anti-crime campaign in Chongqing, the New York Times said.
It was handled by Wang Lijun, the police chief whose flight to the US consulate in February signaled the start of Bo Xilai’s downfall, and expanded into targeting political figures.
Last year, the paper reported, operatives were caught intercepting a conversation between the office of President Hu Jintao and Liu Guanglei, a top party law-and-order official whom Wang Lijun had replaced as police chief.
A conversation between Minister of Supervision Ma Wen, who was visiting Chongqing, and President Hu Jintao himself was also monitored, the paper said.
Authorities in Beijing found out and began investigating, straining the relationship between Wang Lijun and Bo Xilai.
The wire-tapping “was seen as a direct challenge to central authorities”, the newspaper reported, citing party insiders.
These new claims will add to the sense that this scandal has exposed deep rifts and mistrust at the very highest level of China’s Communist Party.
Also important were fears that Bo Xilai, seen as a divisive populist, could not be trusted if elevated to the highest levels in the party.
Bo Xilai’s fall from grace comes with China due to begin its once-in-a-decade leadership change in October.
Since the scandal erupted, the lifestyle and political and business dealings of he and his family have come under intense media scrutiny.
Bo Xilai’s brother has resigned as director of a Hong Kong-based company, a day after his son issued a statement defending his lifestyle.
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.
Bo Xilai’s wife, Gu Kailai, is being investigated in connection with the death of British businessman Neil Heywood
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.
Bo Xilai, the politician at the heart of China’s biggest political scandal in years, is the victim of a smear campaign, a source close to his family has said.
The source, who did not want to be identified, said the allegations against Bo Xilai were “preposterous”.
Bo Xilai was sacked from his job in charge of the city of Chongqing after his police chief fled to a US consulate, causing major embarrassment to Beijing.
Since then a steady stream of damaging stories about Bo Xilai have emerged.
Earlier this week it emerged that the British government had asked the Chinese authorities to re-open an investigation into the death of UK businessman Neil Heywood, a close friend of Bo Xilai.
Unconfirmed media reports suggest Bo Xilai’s police chief, Wang Lijun, had information about Neil Heywood’s death.
Bo Xilai, 62, was one of China’s top politicians, tipped for even higher office when the Chinese Communist Party carries out a once-in-a-decade leadership change later this year.
Many thought he would be promoted to the Standing Committee of the party’s politburo, the nine-man body that runs China.
Suave and sophisticated, Bo Xilai was popular in Chongqing where he was party secretary, the top job in the city.
Bo Xilai also appeared to have support in the higher echelons of the Communist Party. Many national leaders visited Chongqing after he took charge there in 2007.
But since his sacking that support has disappeared – and a series of accusations have been leveled against Bo Xilai.
One suggested Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun fled to the US consulate because Bo Xilai reacted angrily when told of an investigation into his family.
“That’s just preposterous,” said the Bo family contact.
The allegations against Bo Xilai were "preposterous", said a source close to his family
He said the relationship between Bo Xilai and Wang Lijun was “normal” just days before the policeman fled. “He was pledging his allegiance,” said the contact.
He added that members of Bo Xilai’s family had worked hard to avoid the appearance that they were benefiting from the politician’s rise.
Bo Xilai’s wife, Gu Kailai, apparently gave up her career as a high-flying lawyer a few years ago. “She shut down her law firm just when it was getting very big and exciting for her,” said the source.
Bo Xilai had also been accused of praising the Cultural Revolution, a chaotic period from 1966-1976 when normal life was turned upside down.
While in charge in Chongqing he launched a campaign to re-energize people’s enthusiasm for China’s communist past under Mao Zedong.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao made a thinly veiled attack on Bo Xilai’s project at a press conference just the day before he was sacked.
The family contact said: “Any suggestion that Bo Xilai wanted to go back to the Cultural Revolution period is wrong, given that he spent some of that time in jail.”
The source wanted to counter the impression among many that Bo Xilai was an ambitious politician who sought popularity to further his political goals.
He said Bo Xilai acted only out of a “sense of duty”.
“The problem with China’s government is that it’s strayed too far from the people. If you do things for people, others say you are being a populist,” he added.
The source said Bo Xilai had nothing to do with the death of Neil Heywood, the British businessman who died in Chongqing in November 2011.
There are rumors that Wang Lijun fled because he had details about a connection between Bo Xilai’s family and Neil Heywood.
It has emerged that Wang Lijun first arranged a meeting at the UK consulate in Chongqing, but never turned up.
Neil Heywood, who worked as a consultant in China, was a friend of Bo Xilai, but the family contact denied there were any business dealings between the two. Police say the 41-year-old died of excessive alcohol consumption – friends say he drank only occasionally.
Bo Xilai has disappeared from public view since his sacking last month and it is unclear whether he is under investigation or still has his seat on the party’s 25-member politburo.
But the damaging stories about him continue. Whatever the truth behind them, his downfall has caused a major stir within the Chinese political establishment.
The claims and counter claims suggest there is a major battle between political rivals ahead of the leadership changeover.
Bo Xilai, one of China’s most prominent politicians, has been removed from his post as Chongqing’s Communist Party leader, state news agency Xinhua reports.
Bo Xilai, 62, was a strong contender for promotion to China’s top rungs when the party changes its leadership later this year.
However, a scandal erupted when his former chief of police Wang Lijun spent a day at a United States consulate last month.
Vice-Premier Zhang Dejiang will replace Bo Xilai, said the Xinhua report.
The move comes just a day after the end of the country’s annual parliamentary session, the National People’s Congress (NPC), where Bo Xilai’s absence from a meeting sparked speculations about his future.
After a long silence, Bo Xilai spoke last week about the incident involving ex-police chief Wang Lijun, answering questions from journalists at a meeting on the sidelines of the NPC.
Bo Xilai said he had not imagined Wang Lijun would run off. It came suddenly, he said.
“I feel like I put my trust in the wrong person,” Bo Xilai added, speaking at a meeting of Chongqing delegates.
Bo Xilai, one of China’s most prominent politicians, has been removed from his post as Chongqing's Communist Party leader
Wang Lijun has also been sacked from his job as deputy mayor of Chongqing, said another Xinhua report following the earlier announcement on Bo Xilai’s removal.
Wang Lijun’s visit to the US consulate in the city of Chengdu sparked rumors that he had intended to defect. State media reported that he was on vacation to recuperate from stress.
Wang Lijun, who led the crackdown on organized crime in Chongqing that propelled both him and his boss into the limelight, was later placed under police investigation for the incident.
Premier Wen Jiabao, answering a question at a news conference on Wednesday at the closing of the NPC session, said ”progress” had been made in the investigations, but did not reveal details.
He said local authorities must ”seriously” reflect and learn from the incident and that Beijing regarded this ”very seriously”.
Reactions to the brief announcement of Bo Xilai’s removal from his post in state media have been swift. The news spread quickly, prompting thousands of posts on the Sina Weibo microblogging site on Thursday morning.
“Swift and thorough! The ultra-leftish stronghold has finally come to an end. It’s a big fortune for China, a big fortune for the people!” posted a writer for Xinhua.com, Wang Ruogu.
“Bo Xilai might have his personal mistakes, what he has been pushing for might be problematic… but he has truly done a lot of great things for the people,” said another comment by a former journalist.
Bo Xilai is the nearest thing China has to a Western-style politician, correspondents say.
Like China’s leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping, Bo Xilai is the son of a famous communist hero, but he has gone on to forge his own unique public personality. Correspondents say the suave and charismatic Bo Xilai seems at home in front of the cameras and appears to enjoy pushing his policies in public.
Bo Xilai ran the big coastal city of Dalian and then became commerce minister, before moving to the post in Chongqing, a sprawling city in western China.