China's ruling Communist elite have endorsed the expulsion of former high-flying politician Bo Xilai and approved final preparations for the party's upcoming congress.
The closed-door meeting of the Central Committee that ended Sunday was the last before Communist Party leader Hu Jintao and others in his government begin to cede power to Vice-President Xi Jinping and others at the congress, which opens Thursday.
The Central Committee said in a statement carried by the official Xinhua News Agency that it endorsed decisions to expel Bo and former Railways Minister Liu Zhijun from the Communist Party. Bo is accused of a range of misdeeds including covering up his wife's murder of a British businessman. Liu faces corruption charges.
Xinhua said Hu presided over the meeting and delivered a work report. It said Xi introduced a report of the current five-year session and an amendment to the party charter, both of which will be discussed at the congress. It gave no details.
The leadership transition takes place as slowing economic growth is exacerbating public ill feelings over corruption, social injustice and policies that favour state-run companies and the elite over private enterprise and ordinary Chinese.
Abroad, China's attempts to build good relations with neighbours have been set back by territorial spats with Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam, and Beijing feels hemmed in by a U.S. push to divert more military resources to Asia.
The Central Committee applauded its performance over the past five years. "Faced with a complicated international environment and an arduous task of stable reform and development, the entire party under General Secretary Hu Jintao ... withstood the test of all types of difficulties and risks."
It said the economy had grown stably and rapidly, there had been major progress on reform and opening-up, and people's living conditions had improved remarkably.
The central committee did not signal any shifts in policies regarding the economy, but said it would continue to shift the growth model to one more driven by domestic demand.
The policy-setting committee also promoted two generals to the party commission that oversees the military: air force Gen. Xu Qiliang and Gen. Fan Changlong, a career soldier who runs the Jinan Military Area Command and took part in relief efforts after the Sichuan earthquake in 2008.
The Central Committee is comprised of about 370 people from the upper ranks of the party, government and military.
Bo's ouster earlier this year widened rifts within a leadership that likes to project an image of unity. It also complicated the bargaining over the roster of new leaders.