Bo Xilai's Appeal to Higher Court 'Unlikely' to Yield Result

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Staff of the Jinan Intermediate People's Court in Shandong province look at an image of disgraced politician Bo Xilai as the verdict is announced at his trial for corruption, Sept. 22, 2013.
Staff of the Jinan Intermediate People's Court in Shandong province look at an image of disgraced politician Bo Xilai as the verdict is announced at his trial for corruption, Sept. 22, 2013.

A court in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong has agreed to hear the appeal of disgraced politician Bo Xilai against his life jail sentence for corruption and abuse of power but analysts say the decision is purely symbolic, and is likely to result in the original verdict being upheld.

In a brief post on its official website, the Shandong's People's High Court announced on Wednesday it had accepted Bo's appeal, which should be heard within two months, according to Chinese law.

Bo's harsher-than-expected sentence handed down by the Intermediate People's Court in Shandong's provincial capital of Jinan on Sept. 22 was the culmination of the biggest political scandal to rock the ruling Chinese Communist Party in decades.

But analysts said the court's "acceptance" of Bo's appeal was likely just for show.

Du Daozheng, a former high-level Party propaganda official and aide to late ousted Premier Zhao Ziyang, said he hadn't been surprised that Bo, who was the Communist Party chief of the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing, had lodged an appeal.

"This person has a very strong personality and a strong will, and believes in his own version of events," Du said.

"But I believe his appeal will be rejected by the High Court, and [it] will uphold the verdict and sentence of the Jinan Intermediate People's Court in Shandong."

"There will be no change, because the whole Bo case has been a political affair dressed up as an economic one, and there are many questions which remain about that."

Bo's political career took a dive last year by a murder scandal in which his wife, Gu Kailai, was convicted of poisoning a British businessman, Neil Heywood, who had been a family friend.

Carefully-built consensus

Hu Ping, editor of the U.S.-based online magazine, Beijing Spring, said the lower court's decision was unlikely to be changed, because it may have been based on a carefully-built consensus among the highest levels of Party leadership.

"Basically this was a collective decision by the whole of the leadership," Hu said. "Where the Chinese Communist Party is concerned, the more grave the matter at hand, the less likely it is to change its decisions."

"It doesn't matter whether those decisions were right or wrong...Once the system has decided, then the leadership must support preserve its image."

He said there was "basically no chance" of Bo's verdict or sentence being overturned under the current Chinese leadership.

"Of course if a huge [political] change were to come, then it wouldn't just be Bo's case; a whole lot of others might get the opportunity to start over," he added.

Many had expected Bo to get 15-20 years in jail, slightly more than his former police chief and right-hand man Wang Lijun had received in September 2012.

But the feisty Bo refused to admit his guilt, retracting a confession that he said was signed under duress, and ridiculing witnesses for the prosecution, which called in its summing-up statement for a "severe" punishment for the "princeling" son of a revolutionary Party elder and former Politburo member.

The 64-year-old Bo was sentenced to life in prison on the bribery charges, 15 years for embezzlement, and seven years for abuse of power.

All Bo's personal assets were ordered to be seized after he was found guilty of taking 20.4 million yuan (U.S. $3.3 million) in bribes, a sum which many familiar with his career said was greatly reduced from the actual amount.

Bo will also be deprived of political rights for life.

Reported by He Ping for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.





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