BEIJING — China’s charismatic but divisive fallen party chief Bo Xilai has been sentenced to life in prison.
A Chinese court handed down the harsher than expected verdict in an attempt to turn the page on the biggest political scandal in China in decades.
Bo was found guilty of all charges against him including the abuse of power, embezzlement and bribery. His personal assets, including luxuries such as a villa in France he was accused of accepting as a bribe, have been seized by the government.
He will be eligible for parole in approximately 10 years.
In reading the verdict, a court spokesman said Bo has also been, “Deprived of political rights for life.”
It all but confirms Bo’s once spectacular political career is finished.
Bo, for years a hard-charging and rising member of the elite Politburo, has been at the center of a deeply embarrassing drama that has rocked China’s Communist party. His case has emerged as a prime example of so-called “law-breaking practices and unhealthy behavior” at the very highest levels of Chinese leadership.
It became a focal point of leader Xi Jinping’s pledge to wipeout corruption at any level, as he has publicly stated, “from the tigers to the flies.”
Bo’s iron-clad hold on power began to unravel in began in March 2012, when his then police chief Wang Lijun fled to the US Consulate in Chengdu.
Reportedly fearing for his life, Wang claimed to have evidence of Bo’s corrupt ways, including his wife Gu Kailai’s role in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood. Gu was found guilty and jailed for life on a suspended death sentence in August 2012.
Bo was arrested and not seen or heard from for months until he appeared in court last August to face charges. Somewhat unexpectedly in a country that has often seen fallen politicians embrace contrition once in front of a judge, Bo mounted a feisty defense. He rejected all charges against him, calling his wife ‘insane’ and suggesting Wang was in love with her.
In a remarkable move, the Jinan intermediate people’s court released portions of court proceedings via Weibo, China’s Twitter. It was the first time any court in China has used social media of any kind for this purpose. They included verbatim accounts from both the defense and the prosecution. Bo comes across as brash, outraged and offended by the charges.
It’s a persona he developed over time as the party boss in Chongping, where he ruthlessly sought to wipe out what he identified as corruption with what some say were equally dubious methods, including blackmail. But it was also a reminder in part that while Bo has his critics, he continues to have supporters, those who believed in his vow to return to more traditional Mao-ist methods of governing and applauded his efforts in Chongqing.
In special coverage CCTV, China’s state run television network, cited the Court’s conclusion that Bo has damaged the interest of the nation and its people.
Delivered on a Sunday afternoon, news of the verdict was followed by stories on several other politicians accused of illegal behavior and the punishments they have received. The channel also ran a graphic describing the 20 square meter cell with a toilet where Bo will now live and the bare bones meals he will have each day.
Leaving court, Bo once again bucked expectations and smiled on his way out. He has 10 days to appeal the verdict.