News / Asia

    China’s Biggest Corruption Trial in Decades Remains a Mystery

    In a file picture taken on March 5, 2012, Chongqing mayor Bo Xilai attends the opening session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
    In a file picture taken on March 5, 2012, Chongqing mayor Bo Xilai attends the opening session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
    Disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai could face trial in China in a matter of days or weeks. Although Bo’s case is one of China’s biggest political scandals in decades, very little is known about the crimes he is accused of committing. And legal analysts say it is unlikely that his trial will reveal more details.

    Bo Xilai vanished from the public limelight over a year ago.  The former Chongqing party chief was stripped of his official posts and kicked out of the party, following the revelation and later conviction of his wife in the murder of a British businessman.
     
    Police official Wang Lijun, Bo’s top enforcer, was also tried and found guilty of involvement in the murder. The scandal hit just as China was preparing for a once-in-a-decade leadership reshuffle.
     
    Now, a court in eastern Shandong province is preparing to try the former political star on three major crimes: bribery, abuse of power and corruption. Few other details were given, but that is not surprising, said He Jiahong, a legal scholar at Beijing’s Renmin University.
     
    “In China, the criminal trial stage is not very substantial," said He. "It's just a nominal proceeding of the whole proceeding to make a decision about the case. Especially for this kind of highly political cases, the decision has already been made, but then they have to go through the trial. This is not just the problem in Bo Xilai’s case, it’s kind of a feature of criminal trials in China now, especially political cases.”
     
    More details could be revealed during the trial, but it is unlikely the hearing will last long, said He.
     
    “I think that maybe just a couple of hours, or one day. I think two days are the most but it all depends on the defendant's attitude," he said. "I can only guess with my common sense that there should be witnesses, but they are just given the written testimony or records of the interview or questioning, so the public prosecutor will introduce the testimony or the evidence.”
     
    One possible key witness, legal analysts say, is one of China’s wealthiest businessmen, Xu Ming. Xu’s ties with Bo stretch back more than two decades and he was detained last year, just before Bo was removed from office.
     
    In 2010, Forbes estimated that Xu was worth $650 million.
     
    Political analyst Joseph Cheng of the City University of Hong Kong said it is unlikely the trial will reveal any substantial details about the network that aided Bo in his alleged corruption. The Bo case appears to be following the same familiar pattern of other high-ranking leaders accused of corruption, said Cheng

    “One, they all keep very quiet and acknowledge their guilt; two, they do not offer information on their superiors nor on their corruption networks; and three, they therefore get a fairly light sentence," he said.

    Official media have provided some details about Bo’s alleged crimes. Reports last year said that Bo had had sexual affairs with a number of women and that he used his family to funnel in bribes from others.
     
    State reports also said Bo abused his power and tried to cover up his wife’s murder of businessman Neil Heywood. Official accounts from the trial of Bo’s former enforcer, police official Wang Lijun, accuse Bo of beating Wang and stripping him of his post when he confronted Bo about his wife’s involvement in the murder.  
     
    Reports say Bo extorted as much as one million U.S. dollars and accepted bribes worth more than three million. His alleged crimes stretch back more than a decade, when he was mayor of the eastern coastal city of Dalian.
     
    The crimes Bo stands accused of could trigger the death penalty, but legal analysts say that is unlikely. He Bing, a legal scholar at Beijing’s China Political Science and Law University, predicts he will probably be punished with life in prison.
     
    "t is not likely that he will get the death penalty, because from Chen Liangyu to Chen Xitong on to other members of the politburo, they have never been given the death penalty.”
     
    China’s new leader Xi Jinping has pledged to crack down on corruption and go after both tigers and flies - high and low-ranking officials. But analysts say the fact that the case will likely reveal little information about corruption beyond Bo, highlights the weaknesses of China’s anti-corruption campaign and prosecution system.

    Legal scholar He Jiahong said the inability to tackle corruption is partly because senior officials remain largely beyond the reach of prosecutors while they are in office.
     
    “In other words their corruption, no matter is taking bribes or embezzlement, was discovered after they have committed that for ten years, or even more, maybe twenty years, one reason is because they were in power, so it would be difficult to discover those offenses, especially when they were holding the power in the locality, it would be very difficult for the local prosecutor or even the party disciplinary persons to discover the cases," he said.

    Cheng said that the inability to prosecute corrupt top officials is partly the result of China’s political system, where the Communist Party remains above the law. Even in Bo’s case, the senior political officials were consulted on the case’s merits and political impact before it goes to trial, said Cheng.

    “This is obviously a political case and the party's top leaders had to make the decisions, it was formerly reported that the Party Inspection Committee presented a report on the Bo Xilai case to the politburo and the politburo of the party made the final decision," he said. "The case then, goes to court.”
     
    While China’s President Xi has made fighting corruption a top priority, Cheng said Xi still has to consolidate his political power and authority within the party. That means he had to ensure he had a consensus among senior party members that Bo’s trial would not have an impact on factions within the party and the government’s overall stability.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    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 Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    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.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora