The online news portal of TV5
BEIJING - Once a rising political star famous for busting gangs and reviving Maoist ideals, China's Bo Xilai suffered a dramatic fall from grace when his wife was accused of murdering a British businessman.
The charismatic 63-year-old had been tipped for promotion to China's top decision-making body in a handover of power due to take place this autumn before a key aide fled to a US consulate in February with the explosive claim.
The scandal over the death of Neil Heywood, a business associate of the couple, brought Bo's promising political career to a dramatic halt and led to his sacking as Communist party head of the southwestern megacity of Chongqing.
Weeks later, China announced he had been suspended from the Communist Party's powerful 25-member Politburo and placed under investigation for violating party discipline -- usually code for corruption.
That effectively ended Bo's hopes of promotion to the nine-member Politburo Standing Committee, China's most powerful political body, and he is believed to be under house arrest.
But he remains a member of the party, and his fate -- including whether he will face criminal charges -- is as yet unclear.
Bo, a one-time commerce minister, was known for his suave and open demeanour which was seen as refreshing in a country where leaders are often rigid and emotionless in public.
But his open lobbying for promotion coupled with his "princeling" status as the son of a hero of China's revolution irritated some fellow politicians.
"He's very open, very confident, very charismatic and that's not the way most Chinese leaders behave and that is not the way they feel comfortable with their peers behaving," said Patrick Chovanec, a professor at Tsinghua University.
Bo's revival of "red" culture in the southwestern municipality of Chongqing -- including sending officials to work in the countryside and pushing workers to sing revolutionary songs -- drew both accolades and concern.
He also set about fighting graft when he came to power in Chongqing, in a crackdown that saw scores of officials detained and executed, their lurid secret lives exposed.
But behind Bo's smiling demeanor lurked the tragedy of his teens during the Cultural Revolution, a decade of deadly chaos launched by Mao Zedong in which students turned on teachers and officials were purged.
His father Bo Yibo was a revolutionary who fell from grace and was imprisoned and tortured during the turbulent period. His mother was beaten to death and Bo Xilai himself spent time in a labor camp.
But when Mao died and reformist leader Deng Xiaoping took over, Bo Yibo was rehabilitated and became one of the most powerful men in China, bestowing on his son an impeccable family pedigree that long protected him.
Bo took a master's degree in journalism -- an educational background that stands out in the crowd of engineers and scientists who make up China's political elite.
For nearly two decades from 1985, he was based in China's northeastern rustbelt, first as mayor of Dalian, a decaying port city which he is credited with transforming into a modern investment hub.
He then became governor of Liaoning province -- where Dalian is located -- and in 2004 entered the Beijing limelight as China's commerce minister, dazzling foreign counterparts with his modern, can-do attitude.
"He was a reformer and wanted to see things change," said David Zweig, a Chinese politics expert at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
During that time, Bo hosted many foreign visitors including EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, with whom he appeared to be on genuinely friendly terms.
Outside observers said his move to Chongqing, a metropolis of more than 30 million people, would propel him out of the limelight, but his anti-mafia and Maoist revival campaigns proved them wrong.
However, those who had praised Bo as relatively liberal soon grew disillusioned -- particularly with his corruption crackdown, which many say was carried out with contempt for the law.