Shandong Court Rejects Bo Xilai Appeal

china-bo-appeal-oct-2013.jpg In a TV screen grab, Bo Xilai sits in the Shandong Provincial People's High Court in Jinan as his appeal is rejected, Oct. 25, 2013.

A court in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong on Friday rejected an appeal by fallen political star Bo Xilai against his life sentence for corruption and abuse of power, official media reported.

"On the morning of the [Oct. 25], the Shandong high court rejected the appeal and upheld the first instance life sentence sentence in the Bo Xilai bribery, embezzlement, and abuse of power case," the official news agency Xinhua said in a tweet on its official account on Sina Weibo.

The court later released its full ruling on the appeal, which effectively was Bo's last legal opportunity, to the public.

"The evidence is reliable, sufficient, and the sentence is appropriate," the Shandong Provincial People's High Court said in the ruling posted on its website.

"The court rules as follows: reject the appeal, uphold the original verdict. This verdict is the final ruling."

Court appearance

Security was tight around the court buildings in Shandong's provincial capital of Jinan, as Bo was shown briefly escorted by two police officers on state-run CCTV, in what could be his last public appearance.

Bo's appeal was based on claims that his confessions in custody were inadmissible as evidence, because they had been "produced under pressure from officials handling the case, and ... should be disregarded," the court statement said.

Bo, 64, who appeared to smile at times, was shown being physically escorted by both officers from the courtroom at the end of the hour-long hearing.

CCTV images also showed his elder son Li Wangzhi in the courtroom, alongside other relatives.

Last-ditch effort

The decision followed a last-ditch public campaign by former officials and supporters of the charismatic Bo, whose revolutionary song and anti-crime campaigns won him political plaudits and widespread popular support during his tenure in Chongqing.

Beijing University law professor Gong Xiantian, who on Sunday signed an open letter  to President Xi Jinping in support of Bo's appeal alongside more than 40 retired high-ranking officials, said the letter took issue with a number of "serious issues" in the process of Bo's trial, arguing that key witnesses in the case had mental health problems, including Bo's former right-hand man and police chief Wang Lijun.

"Wang Lijun has schizophrenia ... and we can't rule out the possibility that someone has put pressure [on the courts] in the guise of the central government," Gong said. "This is entirely possible."

However, he didn't cite any evidence for his claims regarding Wang, whose Feb. 6, 2012 flight to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu was the first public sign that all was not well in Chongqing following the the death of British businessman Neil Heywood the previous November.

Bo's wife Gu Kailai, who gave video testimony at his trial in August, was handed a suspended death sentence for Heywood's murder on Aug. 15, 2012, while Wang was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment the following September for corruption, defection and abuse of power.

Power struggle

Chinese political analysts have typically regarded Bo's downfall, the biggest scandal to hit the ruling Chinese Communist Party in decades, as typical of a behind-the-scenes power struggle at the heart of the Party.

"This was a political case, the life sentence verdict was decided by an agreement among the leadership, and not by the court," Willy Lam, a prominent China watcher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told Agence France-Presse on Friday.

Chinese President Xi Jinping "used this very heavy sentence to serve a warning not to challenge the leadership," Lam said.

And Chongqing resident Wu Xuezhen, who was forcibly evicted from her home during Bo's reign as Party secretary in the southwestern megacity, said she thought Bo's life sentence was just.

"I think this decision was appropriate," Wu said. "When he was in charge in Chongqing, there was a lot of illegal land acquisition, which was pretty evil."

"When they took our land, they didn't give us anywhere to live," she said. "We go to the government frequently [to complain], but there has been no progress at all."

Reported by Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service and by RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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