Chinese prosecutors seek severe punishment for Bo Xilai

Former Communist Party star continues his defiance as trial for corruption ends

From left: former Chongqing police chief and Bo protege Wang Lijun; former Chongqing Communist Party chief Bo Xilai; Bo’s estranged wife Gu Kailai. Photographs: Jinan Intermediate People’s Court/handout via Reuters

From left: former Chongqing police chief and Bo protege Wang Lijun; former Chongqing Communist Party chief Bo Xilai; Bo’s estranged wife Gu Kailai. Photographs: Jinan Intermediate People’s Court/handout via Reuters

 


The prosecution has demanded severe punishment for disgraced senior Communist Party cadre Bo Xilai at the end of China’s trial of the century , an unusually public five days which combined tales of murder with heady political intrigue and a fair amount of soap opera.

According to a transcript of the court proceedings in the eastern city of Jinan, Mr Bo’s lack of remorse meant he should be harshly punished.

Through hearings, the prosecutors argued they had adequately shown proof of Mr Bo’s guilt on charges of illegally taking almost 27 million yuan (€3.3 million), of corruption and abusing his power in interfering in the investigation of the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood’s in 2011.

“The defendant’s crimes are extremely grave, and he also refuses to admit guilt. As such, the circumstances do not call for a lenient punishment but a severe one, in accordance with the law,” said one of the four prosecutors.

The ruling Communist Party is hoping the trial will complete Mr Bo’s fall from rising star in the Politburo to scandalised, corrupt party boss in the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing.

The scandal set off by his wife’s poisoning of Mr Heywood, apparently over a business deal gone wrong, damaged the party’s credibility. The ensuing trial was supposed to clear the way for President Xi Jinping to continue plans for economic reform to shore up the sluggish economy.


Startling insights
In the end, though, Mr Bo was feisty and defiant. The proceedings gave an often-startling insight in to the shady workings of the communist elite and hinted at how his misconduct enriched his family.

He dismissed video evidence by his wife which seemed to indicate he knew about various illegal payments, saying his wife was a convicted murderer and had demonstrated herself to be both a liar and insane.

Yesterday, it was the turn of soap opera to take lead billing as Mr Bo turned on his former protégé Wang Lijun, the former police chief who fled to the US consulate in Chengdu last year to say that Gu Kailai had poisoned Mr Heywood, an event that triggered the whole scandal.

Mr Wang said Mr Bo had punched him when he told him that Gu had poisoned Mr Heywood. Mr Bo said Mr Wang was infatuated with Gu, from whom he had been estranged over his infidelities, saying his right-hand-man and she were stuck together like “white on rice”.

There were accusations that Mr Bo provided political favours to a tycoon/family friend Xu Ming, in return for various gifts, including a villa near Cannes, cash and air tickets around the world.

All the way through, Mr Bo blamed his wife, who he said had been shown to be crazy and a liar, and Mr Wang, and as local party boss, he had no idea of what was going on – he was too busy. He described another witness, Tang Xiaolin, who is accused of bribing him, as “a mad dog”.


Under duress
He said a confession he from earlier in the investigation had been made under duress, and he had also made some confessions hoping to earn forgiveness, retain his party membership and keep his career alive.

“Over the past few days of the trial, the accused Bo Xilai has not only flatly denied a vast amount of conclusive evidence and facts of his crimes, he has also repudiated his pre-trial written testimony and materials,” the prosecutor said.

“We take this opportunity to remind Bo Xilai: the facts of the crimes are objective, and can’t be shifted around on your whim.”

In theory, the court could sentence Mr Bo to death, but given the leniency already shown to his wife and Mr Wang, and the fact that his faction still enjoys popular support both among the communist upper echelons, a stiff sentence is more likely.