China Party backs expulsion of ex-Shanghai boss

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BEIJING, Oct 12 (Reuters) China's ruling Communist Party today backed the expulsion of a disgraced leader and gave its blessing to statements set to extend President Hu Jintao's grip on power at a key Congress that opens next week.

The Party's Central Committee -- a ruling council with 198 full and more than 150 standby members -- had been in closed session for four days in its seventh ''plenum'', or full meeting, since 2002.

The meeting concluded by announcing the expulsion of Chen Liangyu, the former Party boss of Shanghai accused of corruption, and approving a work report and proposed amendments to the Party constitution that Hu Jintao will present to a full Congress next week.

The moves, announced by the official Xinhua news agency, were expected. But in the meticulous ritual of Chinese politics they will bolster Hu's preparations to extend his leadership by another five years at the Congress.

Chen had defied economic cooling measures introduced by Hu, who doubles as national Party chief, and Premier Wen Jiabao. He faces criminal investigation for abusing his power to misappropriate Shanghai's pension fund and to enrich cronies.

Xinhua did not spell out what changes the plenum backed to the Party constitution, but they are expected to enshrine Hu's key political ideas, allowing him to take his place alongside Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping in the pantheon of Chinese Communist leaders.

Hu's concepts of ''scientific development'' and building a ''harmonious society'' are aimed at correcting the country's path from that set by the previous administration of Jiang Zemin, which featured breakneck growth at the expense of the environment.

More than 2,200 delegates will attend the Congress, at which Hu will seek to name loyal prospective heirs and shake off Jiang's lingering influence.

REUTERS PD RK1525

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