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October 24, 2013

Chinese Court Rejects Bo Xilai's Appeal

by William Ide

A court in China has rejected an appeal by ousted politician Bo Xilai who was sentenced to life in prison last month on charges of corruption, bribery and abuse of power.  The ruling effectively closes the door on one of China’s biggest political scandals in decades. The case not only gave the Chinese public an up close view of the entitlements the country’s ruling elite enjoy, but stained the Communist Party’s image.
 
The Shandong Provincial Higher People’s Court ruling came quickly and unlike Bo Xilai’s trial - where he feistily defended himself - the former Chongqing party secretary and rising political star could do little but listen to the court’s decision.
 
Hou Jianjun, a spokesman for the court told reporters after the hearing that Bo’s appeal lacked any factual or legal basis.
 
“Bo Xilai should be punished in accordance with the law and serve time concurrently for his crimes of abuse of power, corruption and bribe taking," said Hou.  "The facts that were verified during the sentencing for the first review of the case were clear, the evidence sufficient and truthful, and the sentencing correct and appropriate based on the crimes. The entire process was held in accordance with the law.”
 
Four of Bo’s family members were at the hearing, where once again foreign journalists, including a reporter from VOA’s Mandarin Service, were barred from attending the proceedings.
 
Political analysts say the ruling is not surprising as the trial was seen by some as a largely political effort to sideline Bo and end his political career.
 
Because of that, it was important for the appeal to at least seem to be considered, says David Goodman, a political scientist at the University of Sydney.
 
"Going through all the motions was important for the party, because it wants to convince itself it has some belief in the rule of law," Goodman said. "Putting an end to the process is so that, it makes some of them think that they are allowed to get on with things, now that they have dealt with these issues."
 
In just a few weeks, China’s Communist Party leaders will hold a key party meeting that is expected to plan reforms over the next five years. With Bo’s case behind them, Chinese President Xi Jinping will have more room to unify the party and his new core of leaders.

​​The political scandal that dashed Bo’s career also wounded the Communist Party’s reputation. The case came at a time when the Chinese public is growing increasingly weary of how the country’s ruling elite use public office to enrich themselves and their families.
 
Ironically, fighting corruption and creating a more just society were ideals Bo championed in Chongqing.  He cracked down on gangs and corruption while promoting policies that sought to address social inequality. He also promoted public singing of revolutionary songs popular during the era of Mao Zedong.
 
Despite his removal from politics, the policies and leadership style he popularized in Chongqing remain important to the Party, Goodman said.
 
"Some of the things that he took a lead in both symbolism and substance are still coming to pass. In the symbolic stuff, all the symbolic referrals to an earlier age have got much more mainstream now, you only have to travel on the public transport to see that, there are posters and the way people talk about things in the newspapers, all that kind of red talking stuff is very much in the wind.”
 
Han Deqiang, an economist and supporter of Bo, said Bo's treatment by the courts has left some people puzzled because of the similarity between Bo's policies and those embraced by China’s top leaders.
 
“Especially Xi Jinping, the concepts that he stresses on are very similar to the ones that Bo Xilai was promoting," said Han. "That you have to serve the people, that you have to follow the path of serving the public, that you have to follow the mass line of the Communist Party, and oppose the opinions that stress marketization, these are all Bo Xilai's words.”
 
Although Bo has been sentenced to life in prison, it’s likely that the Chinese public has not heard the last about this legacy or ideas. Legal analysts say that despite the harsh sentence, he could be eligible for medical parole in less than a decade.

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