News / Asia

Bo Xilai Trial a Test for China Corruption Crackdown

China's former Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai attends a session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) of the Chongqing Municipal Committee, in Chongqing municipality, Jan. 26, 2008.
China's former Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai attends a session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) of the Chongqing Municipal Committee, in Chongqing municipality, Jan. 26, 2008.
William Ide
— China is showcasing this week’s trial of disgraced politician Bo Xilai as part of a larger crackdown on corruption. But political analysts see the trial quite differently. They say that although the case addresses some wrongdoing, the build up to the trial has appeared to be more of a political bargaining game than a true effort to stamp out widespread official graft.
 
The trial of one of China’s most popular and flamboyant politicians, Bo Xilai, begins early Thursday in the eastern coastal city Jinan. It will be held away from China’s political nerve center of Beijing and far from Bo’s last stronghold, the southern metropolis of Chongqing.
 
Chinese state media say the trial is part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “high-voltage” crackdown on corruption, and that it shows that no one is above the law.
 
Political analyst Hu Xingdou says a closer look at the charges against Bo tells a different story.
 
Bo Xilai  

  • Father Bo Yibo was one of the founders of the People's Republic of China
  • Bo Xilai joined the Communist Party in 1980
  • Was mayor of Dailan, governor of Liaoning province and commerce minister
  • Named leader of Chongqing city in 2007 and ascended to membership in the Politburo
  • Gained prominence for launching crackdown on corruption in Chongqing
  • Expelled form Communist Party in September, 2012
  • Found guilty of bribery, corruption and abuse of power in September, 2013, sentenced to life in prison
“Bo Xilai's case is very complicated, in it there are problems of corruption, and there is also political struggle and struggles of power," said Hu. "The trial mainly deals with the corruption charges, but in reality it is likely that he committed other crimes.”

Bo’s political scandal exploded last year by revelations that his wife murdered a British businessman. Both his wife and the former police chief from Chongqing have already been sentenced.
 
When Bo was expelled from the party, the allegations against him were far-reaching and more specific.
 
Last September, state media said a party investigation found him guilty of six alleged crimes that spanned his political career - from his mayorship in Dalian, to governor of Liaoning, as Commerce Minister in high-ranking party positions and as party chief in Chongqing.
 
Among the charges was his abuse of power and attempt to cover up his wife’s murder of Neil Heywood.  He also allegedly used his government and Communist Party positions to benefit others. In return, he received large sums of cash and assets through his family members, according to the investigation.
 
Timeline of the Bo Xilai Scandal

2012
  • February 2: Bo's key ally and Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun is demoted
  • February 6: Wang visits U.S. consulate in Chengdu
  • March 15: Bo dismissed as Chongqing party chief
  • March 26: Britain asks China to investigate November death of Briton Neil Heywood in Chongqing
  • April 10: Bo suspended from Communist Party posts. China says Gu is being investigated for Heywood's death
  • August 20: Gu given suspended death sentence after confessing to Heywood's murder
  • September 24: Wang convicted of defection, power abuse and bribe taking
  • September 28: Communist Party expels Bo


2013
  • July 25: Bo indicted for bribery, corruption, abuse of power
  • August 22: Bo trial begins in Jinan
  • September 22: Bo sentenced to life in prison
In July, however, when Jinan prosecutors announced Bo’s indictment, only the three general crimes of bribe taking, corruption and abuse of power were named. His corrupt acts allegedly occurred during his time as mayor of Dalian.
 
No specific details were given, and there was no mention of the alleged cover-up of his wife’s murder of Heywood. Media reports have suggested that the sum of the bribes he received amounted to 25 million Chinese yuan or $4 million.
 
Historian Zhang Lifan said the government is making greater use of charges of an economic nature.
 
“Bo Xilai's case is a political one, but from the charges against him, we can see they are using economic charges to handle a political case," said Zhang. "And besides that, the amount of bribes they are talking about is only 25 million Chinese yuan [$4 million]. With such a small sum like that, it is hard to show the government is cracking down on corruption because it is possible that the corruption of most families of high officials surpasses that amount.”

Political analyst Hu Xingdou said low-balling (understating) the amount of funds he received also helps avoid raising questions that might make the Communist Party uncomfortable.
 
“If they openly said the amount of his bribes equals hundreds of millions, they would give the Chinese public negative associations," said Hu. "They might think that if a senior leader can be so corrupt, then what about the rest?”
 
Most analysts believe that Bo will likely be imprisoned for 15-20 years for his crimes. They say the reason why his crimes have seemingly shrunk is to keep the court from giving him a stiffer sentence.
 
  • A black minivan (behind silver Mercedes minivan) believed to be carrying disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai arrives at the Jinan Intermediate People's Court ahead of the fifth day of Bo's trial in Jinan, Shandong province, August 26, 2013. 
  • A policeman guards the entrance of the Jinan Intermediate People's Court in Jinan, Shandong province, August 26, 2013. 
  • A minivan believed to be carrying disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai leaves the Jinan Intermediate People's Court after the end of the fifth day of Bo's trial in Jinan, Shandong province, August 26, 2013. 
  • A minivan (C) believed to be carrying disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai arrives at the Jinan Intermediate People's Court ahead of the fifth day of Bo's trial in Jinan, Shandong province, August 26, 2013. 
  • Bo Xilai leaves the Jinan Intermediate People's Court building in a vehicle in Jinan, Shandong province in this photo taken by Kyodo, August 23, 2013.
  • Gu Kailai is seen in a still image taken from an August 10, 2013 video provided by the Jinan Intermediate People's Court, recorded at an unknown location and screened on August 23, 2013 during Bo Xilai's trial.
  • In this photo released by the Jinan Intermediate People's Court, disgraced politician Bo Xila is flanked by police officers during his trial at the court in eastern China's Shandong province, August 22, 2013.
  • A TV screen shows a news report of disgraced politician Bo Xilai standing in the courtroom, flanked by police guards at Jinan Intermediate People's Court in eastern China's Shandong province, in Hong Kong, August 22, 2013.
  • A man wearing a t-shirt with a picture of former Chinese leader Mao Zedong holds a fan with the words "Bo Xilai" near the Jinan Intermediate People's Court in Jinan, August 22, 2013.
  • A supporter holds a placard during a rally behind a police barricade near the Jinan Intermediate People's Court, August 22, 2013. (Dongfang/VOA)
  • A woman protests outside the Jinan Intermediate People's Court in Jinan, eastern China's Shandong province, August 21, 2013.
  • Chinese police officers attempt to remove a woman protesting with the words "unjust" written on a banner outside the Jinan Intermediate People's Court in Jinan, August 21, 2013. (Dongfang/VOA)
  • Chinese police officers march out of the Jinan Intermediate People's Court in Jinan in eastern China's Shandong province, August 21, 2013.
  • Chinese police officers march out of the Jinan Intermediate People's Court in Jinan in eastern China's Shandong province, August 21, 2013.
  • Chinese police officers march out of the Jinan Intermediate People's Court in Jinan in eastern China's Shandong province, August 21, 2013.

Willy Lam, a political scientist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the situation indicates that Chinese President Xi Jinping has struck a deal among the party’s factions over the trial.
 
Lam said that while the compromise shows that Xi has the political skills to navigate party factions, it has raised questions about his ability to tackle graft.
 
“The fact that the Bo Xilai trial is just a public relations exercise demonstrating a facade of unity amongst the factions, I think, reflects very poorly on Xi Jinping's leadership ability to really fight corruption, which everyone agrees is the most serious problem in the party,” said Lam.
 
Since stepping into office, Xi has trumpeted a crackdown on graft. But so far, few high-ranking officials have been prosecuted.
 
Zhang Lifan said that if the president was to truly take on corruption that could be a serious threat to his own power.
 
“I think that if he wanted to really fight corruption, because the system at the moment is of widespread corruption, if he really wanted to fight corruption then everyone [other leaders] would probably join together to get him out of office,” said Zhang.

Analysts say that if  Xi wants to succeed, he needs to do more to lay to rest accusations of the privileges of China’s political elite and promote policies that lessen the gap between the rich and poor.
 
He also needs to promote the rule of law, they say, something the trial of Bo shows is not forthcoming in China.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid