China state media curt on Bo sacking, social media divided
China's state and social media have reacted swiftly to the sacking of Bo Xilai, a prominent leader who had been tipped to win a top post after a major leadership change expected later this year.
The news however came too late for early newspaper editions, which focused largely on Premier Wen Jiabao's news conference following a parliamentary annual session held yesterday morning.
There has been intense speculation about Bo Xilai's position since February when his former chief of police spent a few hours at a US consulate in Sichuan Province, provoking rumours that he was seeking asylum. He is also thought to have upset some in the leadership with a high profile campaign against corruption and a revival of Maoist ideology.
Cautious on sacking
Beijing's China Central Television (CCTV-1) channel reported the news as the fifth item in its lunchtime bulletin. "Appointment of comrade in charge of Chongqing municipal committee adjusted" said the announcer of the channel's news programme.
Although the programme led with domestic news such as the latest consumer price index, the Bo Xilai news came before top international news.
The wording of a brief report carried by state-run news agency Xinhua was also restrained. The report did not elaborate beyond saying that Bo would be replaced by Vice-Premier Zhang Dejiang.
The Hong Kong-based news agency Zhongguo Tongxun She (ZTS) cited in its special article a commentary by Ye Duchu, Professor at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, who said that Bo Xilai's removal reflects the CPC Central Committee's emphasis on holding local leaders responsible.
Social media divided
But the news of Bo Xilai prompted an outpouring on Chinese social media sites.
According to a report in the Taipei-based Want China Times (English-version), there was an "immediate frenzied online discussion", attracting about 190,000 posts on the country's main microblogging platforms Tencent Weibo and Sina Weibo "within four hours" of the announcement.
According the paper, the number shows that China's internet users are becoming increasingly emboldened to discuss politics online, despite new rules requiring users to register their real identities.
Most users of Tencent Weibo were supportive of Mr Bo, according to the paper.
"Bo is a good official busting gangs and crime but displeased too many villains like [former premier] Zhu Rongji," a user, identifying himself as Zhang Haotian, said.
But there were also critical posts on the Sina Weibo microblogging site. Xu Pu argues that Bo Xilai was trying to take Chongqing back to the era of Cultural Revolution "when people could be charged with a crime without any evidence".
"His crackdown on organised crimes has come at the expense of the rule of law. His terror has frightened everyone," his post said.
On Sina Weibo there was also speculation on the part of TV host Hu Ziwei who wrote: "We must re-evaluate the speech made by Premier Wen yesterday ... Wang Lijun [the controversial police chief] must have revealed some secrets, otherwise this decision would not have been made so quickly."
A user on the BBC Chinese forum, who was writing from Dalian, said: "Anybody who is against corruption goes quickly. Actually Bo is a very westernised leader."
Opinion is mixed and Mr Bo certainly aroused a variety of emotions, but some users reserved their praise or condemnation for the secretive workings of China's political system.
Fan Zhongxin, a professor at the Hangzhou Normal Universi...