Bo Xilai gets life for not playing along
A CHINESE court convicted Bo Xilai of corruption yesterday and gave him a stern sentence of life in prison, capping a nearly 20-month scandal that derailed one of China's most up-and-coming politicians.
The former Politburo member and Chongqing city party leader was convicted of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power in a case set in motion by his wife's poisoning of a British business associate, but also widely regarded in China as a prosecution that was carried forward because the charismatic, publicity-seeking populist had lost the support of top leaders.
The charges had likely been tailored to offer a lighter sentence had Bo cooperated with prosecutors, but he declined to play along, said Dr Willy Lam, an expert on Communist Party politics at Chinese University in Hong Kong.
"He was punished for his disobedience and defiance," Dr Lam said.
The Jinan Intermediate People's Court also deprived Bo of political rights for life and confiscated all his personal assets, effectively ending his political career. Although he could appeal against the verdict, he was widely expected to have little chance of success.
"It's a political death sentence for him," said Dr Dali Yang, a political scientist at the University of Chicago. "As long as the current circumstances stay, he cannot come back."
In a marked departure from the closely choreographed proceedings of other recent political trials, Bo had launched an unusually vigorous defence while on the stand last month. He denied all charges and blamed the corruption on others in his inner circle, thus forgoing the leniency customarily given in Chinese courts when a defendant expresses contrition.
Bo also became the highest-level politician convicted of corruption under President Xi Jinping, who has staked his reputation on combating graft among Communist Party members and cleaning up their image of leading luxurious lifestyles that has angered the Chinese public.
"This is a big victory for Xi Jinping's leadership, because you cannot say this is a secretive trial. It is at least a semi-open trial," said Dr Li Cheng, an expert on elite politics at Brookings Institute. "Bo's political career is zero, and the trial really transformed Bo from a charismatic leader to a self-indulging person."
The court showed a picture of a handcuffed Bo, with clenched fists in an apparent show of defiance, flanked by two towering policemen who held him by his shoulders and forearms. Two more policemen stood by.
But what was most remarkable about the image was Bo's broad smile as he was photographed beneath the bench.
Heavy security and roadblocks around the courthouse kept bystanders back, with no signs of any Bo sympathisers present, unlike at the beginning of his trial when a handful showed up to express support for him.
AP, BLOOMBERG, REUTERS