Bo Xilai Indicted for Corruption in Shandong

china-bo-haggard-march-2012.jpg Bo Xilai attends the closing ceremony of the National People's Congress in Beijing, March 14, 2012.

Authorities in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong on Thursday indicted former Chongqing ruling Chinese Communist Party chief and Politburo member Bo Xilai for corruption, embezzlement, and abuse of power, state media reported, setting the stage for a long-awaited trial.

Bo, who before his fall was expected to rise to the Party's highest echelons, "took advantage of his position as a civil servant to seek gains for others," according to a Xinhua news agency dispatch which was repeated across several state-controlled media.

Bo also "accepted bribes in the form of large amounts of money and property," the agency quoted an indictment filed at the Intermediate People's Court in Shandong's provincial capital, Jinan, as saying.

"He also embezzled a large amount of public money and abused his power, seriously harming the interests of the state and people," the English-language China Daily newspaper quoted the charge sheet as saying.

Bo's conduct resulted in "heavy losses" for the state and taxpayers, China Central Television (CCTV) reported, adding: "The circumstances are extremely serious."

The news follows a slew of reports suggesting that his trial could begin soon in the provincial capital Jinan.

Bo, 64, who was once widely tipped for a seat on China's all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, is reportedly accused of receiving more than 20 million yuan (U.S. $3.26 million) in bribes and of embezzling another 5 million yuan (U.S. $815,000).

'Combined punishment'

State media said he would receive a "combined punishment" for all of the charges against him.

Beijing-based veteran journalist and political commentator Gao Yu said there had been a number of sums mentioned in internal documents informing Party officials about the case.

"In particular, they mention this 200 million yuan (U.S. $32.6 million) that is supposed to have been accepted by [Bo's wife] Gu Kailai and [their son] Bo Guagua," Gao said.

She said Gu, who was handed a suspended death sentence in August 2012 for her role in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, is unlikely to play a public role in Bo's trial, however.

"If they charged her with any more, they'd have to execute her," Gao said. "Also, there are rumors that she has a mental illness."

However, she said it is unclear whether Bo Guagua would appear at his father's trial.

"That's something to watch out for at this trial," Gao said. "If [Bo] is willing to admit to his crimes, then they'd probably leave [the rest of ] his family out of it."

She said whether or not the trial will be open to the media would depend on how cooperative Bo is with investigators.

"If he confesses, then it will at least be partially open," Gao said. "If doesn't confess to his crimes, the whole thing will be behind closed doors."

Calls to the Jinan Intermediate People's Court went unanswered during office hours on Thursday.

Calls to Bo's defense lawyer Li Guifang also rang unanswered.

Long jail term seen

Li Zhuang, a whistleblowing lawyer jailed for accusing Bo's regime in Chongqing of using torture to force confessions from innocent businessmen, said he thinks the trial will likely take place in the next few weeks.

"The prosecutors have only just sent the case files to the court, and the court hasn't had time to read through them yet," Li said.

"It will take a while before the trial can start," he said, adding that a trial this week looked unlikely.

Hong Kong-based China political analyst Patrick Poon said Bo looks likely to receive a lengthy jail term at the very least.

"I think he definitely won't get a short sentence, so as to prevent him from making a comeback," Poon said. "There is a lot of political horsetrading going on behind the scenes in the princeling faction regarding their view of Bo Xilai's downfall."

Beijing-based rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan said Bo's sentence is unlikely to be heavier than the suspended death sentence handed down to former railways minister Liu Zhijun for corruption earlier this month.

"Whatever the sentence in Bo Xilai's case, it is unlikely to be heavier than Liu Zhijun's," Liu said.

Bo "has been informed of his legal rights and interviewed by prosecutors," the China Daily said on Thursday, adding that "his defending counsel has delivered its opinion."

Rise to power halted

Bo's rise to power was abruptly halted when his Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun made a dramatic flight by car to the U.S. Embassy in Chengdu on Feb. 6, 2012, emerging the following morning to give himself up to investigators from the central government in Beijing.

Wang had been hired by then Chongqing Party secretary Bo, the charismatic "princeling" son of Party elder Bo Yibo, to spearhead his campaign against organized crime, which lawyers have since said targeted innocent businessmen with torture and forced confessions.

After rising to prominence as mayor of the northeastern port city of Dalian, Bo Xilai later became associated with a campaign to bring back revolutionary songs and Mao-era socialist morality to Chongqing.

Chongqing has since done its best to wipe Bo's traces from the city, overturning some labor camp convictions handed down under his rule.

Bo is currently being held at a secret location awaiting trial.

His wife Gu Kailai received a suspended death sentence in August 2012 for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, in which Bo has been judged by Party statements also to hold "major responsibility."

Wang was jailed for 15 years in September for corruption, defection, and abuse of power.

Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Hai Nan for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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