Published: Sunday, September 22, 2013

Bo Xilai found guilty of corruption

 Ex-Chinese top politician Bo Xilai found guilty of bribery embezzlement and abuse of power. He is present before court during the hearing. John Sudworth of BBC says: "This is a political purge from which you have to assume there is no coming back."


Ex-Chinese top politician Bo Xilai found guilty of bribery embezzlement and abuse of power. He is present before court during the hearing. John Sudworth of BBC says: “This is a political purge from which you have to assume there is no coming back.”

A Chinese court has found disgraced former top politician Bo Xilai guilty of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power.

Bo was removed from office last year amid a scandal which saw his wife convicted for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.

The former party chief of Chongqing was denied all the charges against him in a fiery defence at his trial in August.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment, but has the right to appeal.

The verdict was handed down by the Intermediate People’s Court in Jinan, Shandong province.

Passing sentence the judge told Bo that he had damaged China’s national interests and the interests of its people, wrongfully using his position in power to receive bribes totalling 20 million Chinese Yuan ($3.2m; £2m).

He said that his confession to the crimes was not acquired through illegal means such as torture and interrogation and therefore it still stood.

The BBC’s John Sudworth outside the court said that the judge completely demolished Bo’s defence arguments.

During Bo’s trial last month the court took the unprecedented step of releasing details about proceedings on its Weibo microblog.

This saga could drag on. The former party chief of Chongqing could launch an appeal, which would lead his case to be retried in a higher court within the next two months.

Most agree that Bo defended himself so vigorously in court that it seems probable that he will submit an appeal. He will have 10 days to do so after the verdict is read.

Under China’s criminal procedure law, the appeals process could involve the entire case being reheard, or the court could only focus on certain parts of the original case.

It’s unlikely the appeal judges would declare Bo to be innocent, but the process can still be declared a victory in the development of China’s legal process.

Jerome Cohen, a respected lawyer and an expert on China’s legal system, argues that by allowing Bo Xilai to go through the appeals process, China’s leaders will verify the rights of an accused person to defend himself. Reason enough, it seems, for the Bo Xilai soap opera to continue.

Prosecutors had said that Bo accepted the bribes and embezzled public funds from Dalian, where he used to be mayor.

He was also accused of abusing his office by using his position to cover up for his wife Gu Kailai, convicted last year of murdering Neil Heywood in 2011.

In lengthy comments in court, he said he did not illegally obtain millions of dollars or cover up Heywood’s killing.

He also dismissed the testimony of two key witnesses, describing his wife’s statement as “ridiculous” and his former police chief Wang Lijun’s testimony as “full of lies and fraud”.

POLITICAL CRISIS

Bo’s fall from power was triggered when Wang sought refuge in the US consulate in Chengdu in February 2012.

The incident prompted an investigation into the death of Heywood. Wang has since been jailed for 15 years for helping Gu cover up the murder.

The Bo Xilai scandal triggered a crisis in the Communist Party, which was about to hold its once-in-a-decade leadership handover, and revealed divisions at the top of the party over how Bo should be handled.

Two years ago Bo Xilai was seen as a candidate for promotion to the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s top decision-making body.

His downfall was seen as the biggest political shake-up to hit China’s ruling elite in decades.

But his trial also offered the public a rare glimpse into the life of China’s rich and powerful, with lurid details emerging of lavish vacations and luxury villas.

Earlier this week, an overseas-based dissident Chinese news website published a letter allegedly written by Bo in prison on 12 September.

Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post said that unidentified insiders with close ties to Bo had confirmed that the letter, addressed to Bo’s family, was genuine.

“I am an innocent victim and I feel wronged,” the letter read. “But I believe one day truth will prevail…I will wait quietly in jail for that day to come.”