China vows to tackle corruption amid reforms

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China learned an “extremely profound” lesson from the Bo Xilai scandal and will make fighting corruption a priority alongside further reform, a Communist Party spokesman has said, as a key congress opens to usher in a leadership change.

But Cai Mingzhao yesterday said political reform had to be realistic, and that China’s current system of one-party rule was not up for debate.

Bo, once a contender for top leadership in the world’s second-largest economy, was ousted in China’s biggest political scandal in two decades this year, following a scandal in which his wife murdered British businessman Neil Heywood.

“Our country is a society in transition, the phenomenon of corruption happens easily and often and is a long-term and arduous task for the party [to tackle],” Mr Cai told a news conference in Beijing’s cavernous Great Hall of the People.

“The issues of Bo Xilai and Liu Zhijun … occurred at senior levels within the party and are serious corruption cases; the lessons [learnt] were extremely profound,” he said, referring also to a railways minister sacked for corruption last year.

Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, and his former police chief, Wang Lijun, have been jailed over the scandal that stemmed from the murder of Mr Heywood, while Bo was party chief of the south-western city of Chongqing.