News / Asia

Experts Split on Bo Xilai's Fate

Bo Xilai (March 11, 2012)
Bo Xilai (March 11, 2012)
VOA News
A former Chinese police chief at the center of a major Communist Party political scandal has been charged with defection, taking bribes, and abuse of power.

But experts are split on what the charges against Wang Lijun mean for Bo Xilai, the once-powerful ex-party boss whose career has seemingly been shattered by the crisis.

The incident began in February, when Wang fled to the U.S. consulate in Chongqing to inform American diplomats that Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, was involved in the murder of a British businessman.

Where's Bo?

Timeline of the Bo Xilai Scandal

  • February 2: Bo's key ally and Chongqing police chief, Wang Lijun, is demoted.
  • February 6: Wang visits U.S. consulate in Chengdu, reportedly to seek asylum.
  • March 2: Xinhua reports Wang is under investigation.
  • March 9: Bo defends himself and his wife, Gu Kailai, at a press conference.
  • 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 Politburo and top Communist Party posts. China announces Gu is being investigated for Heywood's death.
  • July 26: Gu charged with Heywood's murder.
  • August 10: Four Chinese police go on trial for allegedly helping cover up the Heywood murder.
  • August 20: Gu given suspended death sentence after confessing to Heywood's murder.
  • September 18: Two day trial of Wang for defection and abuse of power ends without him contesting the charges.
But while Bo's wife was convicted last month for the murder, Bo himself has not been heard from. Although he was stripped of his party posts and placed under investigation for unspecified "disciplinary violations," it is not clear whether he will face criminal charges.

Some analysts expect the party to be lenient with Bo, pointing out that his name was not even mentioned during Gu's tightly orchestrated murder case or in the official charges against Wang. They say this suggests he will not be accused of direct involvement in the crime.

But Bonnie Glaser, a China analyst with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, says the silence about Bo could also mean Beijing has not yet made a decision on his future.

"Bo Xilai's fate has not yet been determined," says Glaser. "It remains to be seen whether Bo Xilai will be charged, whether he will be charged in public, or whether he will just be dealt with through the parallel party system, and it is my guess that it will be the latter."

Glaser points to the case of former Chinese premier Zhao Ziyang, who fell out of favor with the party following the Tiananmen Square protests. Zhao was dealt with internally and spent the rest of his life under house arrest. Glaser says Bo could receive the same fate.

Possible punishment

It is also unclear as to when Beijing will make any announcement regarding possible punishment for Bo. Glaser says it is in the interest of the Communist Party to wrap up the embarrassing scandal before a sensitive leadership transition later this year.

"I think these are issues that the Chinese leadership would like to get out of the way prior to the opening of the 18th Party Congress, which now is likely to be in mid-October." she says, adding: "I think they will probably do so."

Others are not so sure. International Studies Chairman Baogang He of Australia's Deakin University says he does not expect to hear much news on Bo's fate before the leadership transition.

"They do have an incentive to try Bo Xilai before the 18th Party Congress," he says. "But it is probably unlikely."

He adds that it is unlikely that Bo's trial would be conducted in private, saying this could undermine public confidence in China's legal system.

Although there are more questions than answers surrounding the whole scandal, Chinese state media - when they have spoken on the sensitive topic - have put a positive spin on the controversy.

An editorial in the Communist Party-controlled Global Times  newspaper said Thursday that the charges against Wang show a "certainty of justice," and declared that "the stir has already passed."

  • In this photo released by the Jinan Intermediate People's Court, Bo Xilai is handcuffed and held by police officers as he stands at the court in Jinan, in eastern China's Shandong province, Sept. 22, 2013.
  • A minivan believed to be carrying Bo Xilai arrives at the Jinan Intermediate People's Court ahead of the fifth day of Bo's trial, August 26, 2013. 
  • In this image taken from video, Bo Xilai addresses a court at Jinan Intermediate People's Court in eastern China's Shandong province, Aug. 24, 2013.
  • A woman protests outside the Jinan Intermediate People's Court, eastern China's Shandong province, August 21, 2013.
  • Gu Kailai, wife of Bo Xilai, is seen in a still image taken from an August 10, 2013 video provided by the Jinan Intermediate People's Court.
  • Policemen are seen at a court building where the trial for Bo Xilai was held in Jinan, Shandong province.
  • Former police chief Wang Lijun speaks during a court hearing in Chengdu, China, in this still image taken from CCTV video, Sept. 18, 2012.
  • This video image taken from CCTV shows Gu Kailai, wife of Bo Xilai, being taken into the Intermediate People's Court in the eastern Chinese city Hefei, August 9, 2012.
  • Police officers stand guard at the Hefei City Intermediate People's Court for the murder trial of Gu Kailai, Anhui Province, China, August 9, 2012.
  • A  combonation photo showing Neil Heywood and Gu Kailai.
  • Bo Xilai, walks past Communist Party leaders at the National People's Congress in Beijing, March 9, 2012.
  • Bo Xilai, right and his son, Bo Guagua, 2007.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs