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.
    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

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Forced Anal Testing Case to Appear Before Kenya Court

    Men challenge use of anal examinations to ‘prove homosexuality’; practice accomplishes nothing except to humiliate those subjected to them, according to Human Rights Watch

    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.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora