China Bo Xilai supporters set up political party

File photo: Bo Xilai in Beijing on 3 March 2012 file photo
Image caption Bo Xilai was popular with Chongqing's poor and rural citizens

Supporters of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai say they have set up a political party, and made Bo the party chairman.

Wang Zheng told the BBC she was inspired to set up the Zhi Xian Party after following the trial of Bo.

It is a highly unusual move in China, where the ruling Communist Party retains a monopoly on power.

Bo, the former Chongqing Party chief, was given a life sentence in September for corruption and abuse of power.

Ms Wang, a university professor, said her party would act in a similar manner to a special interest group, calling for the Chinese constitution to be upheld and for income inequality to be tackled.

"The goal of the party is to guard the constitution," Ms Wang said. "In the past, for so many years, the ruling party has often done things that are against the constitution."

She said the party was inspired by Bo's work to help the poor as Chongqing party chief.

"In recent decades, China's reform methods were against the constitution" as the political system had allowed the gap between the rich and the poor to increase, she said.

She added that what she was doing was consistent with Chinese law.

"The Communist Party is the ruling party. According to the constitution, the nation is led by the Communist Party that co-operates with the other parties, and we are one of the participating parties."

Police surveillance

Ms Wang said there had been an overwhelmingly positive response to her party, but did not reveal the size of her party's membership.

The party has named Bo its honorary chairman, although it is unclear whether Bo has agreed to any association with the group.

The Zhi Xian Party translates into "The Supremacy of the Constitution" Party in Chinese.

Image caption Ms Wang said the party was inspired by Bo

The formation of a new political movement comes as a rare open challenge to the ruling Communist leadership, the BBC's Celia Hatton in Beijing reports.

Ms Wang is already facing a backlash by the government for her actions, and her home is under police surveillance, our correspondent adds.

However, Ms Wang said she was "not scared".

"I have the confidence that what I am doing is not illegal and most of the people I am in touch with, including the security police, they are actually nice people," she said.

China has jailed activists in the past for setting up political parties. Activist Qin Yongmin was jailed for 12 years in 1998 after trying to register the China Democracy Party.

Bo Xilai was removed from office in 2012 amid a scandal which saw his wife convicted of a British businessman's murder.

During his time in Chongqing, Bo was popular with the city's poor and rural citizens for running a high-profile crackdown on crime and promoting China's communist past, including the public singing of "red songs".

However, his open ambition and flamboyant style earned him political enemies, analysts said.

In September he was found guilty of taking bribes amounting to 20m yuan ($3.3m; £2m) either personally or through his family. He was also accused of abusing his office by using his position to cover up for his wife's crime.

His supporters, however, believe he is the victim of a political purge.