Wen Jiabao forced to resign from the Politburo after wife loses key vote in leadership race

Former Chinese leader removed from Party congress

Facing a storm of controversy just a few weeks before key party congress, Premier Wen Jiabao was forced to resign from the Politburo at the Chinese Communist Party’s central committee meeting on Saturday.

As Wen’s wife gave an emotional farewell speech, he walked out of the Great Hall of the People to the sound of cheering and cheers.

He had promised to resign if the party’s work ethic did not improve rapidly and warned he could not keep up with the pace of reform, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Wen, who was first elected leader of the party in late 1998, has been a pillar of the party since then. The 60-year-old, described by many as a reformer, was forced to resign last year after his wife Wen Jiabao, also a Chinese premier and wife of the head of state, lost the key vote in the Chinese leadership race.

“I wish to go to the meeting with my wife as the head of a family,” Wen said in a pre-recorded greeting during his speech before the meeting. “I want to express my gratitude to everyone who supported my re-election and who worked for the party’s reform.”

Wen’s wife, who speaks no Chinese, made an emotional speech in her husband’s place. “The meeting of the whole party and the Central Committee is a rare chance for me to say goodbye to my husband,” she said.

As party congress approached, Wen said: “We are facing a storm of controversy and we must take a hard look at ourselves to review whether the party’s work ethic has improved.

“The party is facing a crisis of legitimacy, as it failed to respond correctly to the global financial crisis and as a result is facing a public opinion crisis. It is also facing a crisis of internal organization that has resulted in an increasing number of disputes and divisions among its members.”

He added that the party’s work was facing a crisis that was causing him to “suffer the most acute anxiety”.

“The party is in transition from the old order to the new, and it has to deal with issues such as reform of the party system, and its own reform. These challenges are the highest threat to the party,” Wen said.

The party congress is the annual meeting of all Chinese Communist Party members and their deputies at which Wen is expected to be reelected as party leader

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