Bo Xilai faces life behind bars
China's former rising political star Bo Xilai is jailed for life on charges of corruption, taking bribes and abuse of power.PT0M54S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2u7o1 620 349 September 22, 2013
Ousted political star Bo Xilai has been sentenced to life in jail after being found guilty of bribery, graft, and abuse of power, in the closely-watched trial triggered by a sensational political scandal which has convulsed China’s political elite.
In a verdict handed down in the Jinan Intermediate People’s Court on Sunday, Bo was sentenced to life imprisonment for bribery, 15 years for graft, and seven years for abuse of power, all to be served concurrently. The court ordered him to be stripped of his personal assets, including the 20 million yuan ($3.47 million) of assets he was found to have received as bribes.
Footage of Bo in court broadcast on the state-run CCTV showed the former Chongqing party secretary with a poignant smile on his face as he heard the verdict being read out. Wearing a crisp white shirt and flanked by two police officers, Bo was later handcuffed before being led out of court.
Bo was a charismatic yet polarising political figure whose fall from grace came just as he was within grasp of a promotion to China’s elite decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee.
Seen by some political analysts as a direct rival to president Xi Jinping, the purging now ensures that, Mr Bo, 64, will need a remarkable reversal of fortunes if he is ever to return to public life.
Despite a defiant display during a drama-filled five-day trial in Jinan last month, Bo’s guilty verdict was never seriously in doubt. But analysts expressed surprise at the severity of the sentence, suggesting there may have been an element of retribution for Bo’s fiery display.
“The sentence was heavier than I originally expected,” political commentator Li Weidong said. “His attitude in court may well have been a factor.”
The court rejected all of Bo’s key defences, including that he had made an earlier confession of accepting bribes while under duress. It also rejected Bo’s assertion that pre-recorded video testimony made against him by his wife, Gu Kailai, should be inadmissible because she was mentally unwell.
Bo is expected to contest the verdict, and has 10 days to lodge an appeal.
“I think the verdict is fair and was in line with what the legal community expected,” prominent lawyer Chen Youxi said, who added the individual sentences for graft and abuse of power were actually more lenient than expected.
Bo shot to national prominence in Chongqing by waging war on organised crime and for stoking a wave of ‘red’ Maoist nostalgia through the singing of Communist revolutionary songs. But his political ambitions dramatically combusted when his trusted police chief Wang Lijun defected to the US consulate in March last year.
There, he told American officials that Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, had murdered British businessman Neil Heywood, triggering the most sensational Chinese political scandal in a generation.
In a departure from protocol for such a politically-sensitive trial, extensive transcripts – as well as selected photos and video footage – were made public via the court’s official microblog, in a move welcomed by legal rights activists.
Among the salacious details to emerge from the torrent of court transcripts, was Bo’s contention that the primary reason his trusted police chief Wang Lijun betrayed him was because he harboured secret feelings for Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai.
Bo also revealed his relationship with his wife deteriorated because he had been unfaithful, prompting Ms Gu to take their son Bo Guagua to live overseas.
Further captivating an enthralled Chinese public were details of the Bo family’s lavish lifestyle. Dalian billionaire businessman Xu Ming paid for a $3.2 million six-bedroom French villa which was held through a web of shell companies. The businessman also paid for numerous holidays for Bo Guagua including a jaunt to Africa, and for an 80,000-yuan Segway scooter, the court heard.
There were also details deemed too sensitive to relay in the court’s transcripts. In accounts relayed by court observers, but removed from the court’s official version of events, Mr Bo denied he had tried to upset the party’s selection of top leaders, in a glimpse of the power politics many believe were behind his downfall.
“Some say I wanted to be the prime minister,” Bo said, in the account obtained by the New York Times. “That is completely untrue.”
Bo also argued he was merely obeying orders when he took steps to cover up the flight of his police chief to the US consulate.
He said he was issued the order by the Central Politics and Law Commission, which was led at the time by domestic security tsar Zhou Yongkang, a senior standing committee member widely seen as a close ally of Bo.
“I'm now deeply mired in prison,” Bo said last month in a contemplative closing statement on the last day of the trial. “I'm feeling many conflicting emotions, and yet I only have the rest of my life."