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.
William Ide
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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus 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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid