BO XILAI'S DOWNFALL AND TRIAL

BO XILAI BROUGHT DOWN BY HIS RIGHT HAND MAN WANG LIJUN?

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young Bo
Bo Xilai’s downfall began in January of 2012 when he censured his top aide, police chief Wang Lijun, and then stripping him of his powerful post. Rejected by his influential patron and fearing for his life, Wang slipped out of Chongqing by car a week later and fled to the U.S. consulate in neighboring Chengdu to seek asylum. Wang told US diplomats of his version of the Heywood murder, including that Bo had tried to prevent his investigation. "It felt like something out of a spy thriller," U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke later said in an interview with Newsweek. [Source:Gillian Wong, Associated Press, August 20, 2013]

Wang was sacked after he told Bo about the allegations that Bo’s wife was involved in the Heywood murder. Gillian Wong of Associated Press wrote: “ It is unclear why Wang brought the murder allegations to his boss, though reports suggested that Wang hoped Bo would shield him from an unrelated graft investigation. His plan backfired, forcing him instead to flee to the U.S. consulate, prompting Chinese security vehicles to surround the building. Photos of the scene circulating on microblogs were the first public hints of trouble brewing.When Wang realized that asylum was not an option, he negotiated with Chinese officials for safe passage to Beijing. The murder allegations were not yet publicly known, but Wang's actions were considered a severe breach of party protocol.” [Ibid]

According to the New York Times:Wang spent a night in the consulate before leaving in the care of officials from the Ministry of State Security in Beijing. Airline ticket purchase records showed that a first-class seat for a Feb. 8 flight to Beijing had been bought for Mr. Wang, according to a Bloomberg report in February. A first-class ticket was also purchased for Qiu Jin, a vice minister of state security. Mr. Wang has not been seen since he was escorted from the Chengdu consulate.

The Wall Street Journal reported: Chinese police surrounded the consulate. After talks with Chongqing Mayor Huang Qifan in the consulate, Mr. Wang left the building and was detained by Chinese security agents. The Chongqing government said Mr. Wang was suffering from stress and undergoing "vacationstyle treatment." U.S. State Department later confirmed he spent the night in consulate and said he left of his own accord. [Source: Jeremy Page, Wall Street Journal, March 25, 2012]

Wang Lijun

Wang was widely seen as Bo’s right-hand man. He ran the sweeping anticrime crackdown in 2009 which led to thousands of arrests and destroyed some of the city’s wealthiest business executives. According to the New York Times the campaign propelled Mr. Bo’s thinly veiled crusade to win a seat on the Standing Committee of the Politburo, the nine-member committee that effectively runs China.

Wang was a nationally decorated crime fighter who had worked under Bo in Dalian in the northeast province of Liaoning. In Chongqing he was the top police officer until he was mysteriously removed the week before he fled to the consulate. He stayed on as a deputy mayor and was reassigned to duties involving the local economy and education.

China’s Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection (CCDI) was investigating “economic crimes” and corruption-related offences allegedly committed by Wang and his colleagues when the latter served as a top police official in Tieling municipality from 1995 to 2003. In January, Gu Fengjie, Wang’s successor as Tieling police chief, was sentenced to 12 years in jail on graft-related charges. CCDI agents began questioning Wang himself early in 2012. [Source: Willy Lam, China Brief (Jamestown Foundation), March 2, 2012]

Matthew Robertson wrote in The Epoch Times: Wang has a story to tell about his participation in thousands of atrocities—and may have already told it to U.S. consular officials. Fearing that Bo Xilai meant to assassinate him, he fled to Chengdu. According to a Radio France International report, revealed to consular officials details about crimes committed by him and Bo. [Source: Matthew Robertson, The Epoch Times, February 15, 2012]

Jun Li, a victim of the Chongqing anti-crime campaign and once one of the richest men in Chongqing, told the Washington Post that Wang was so worried about his own fate...that he fled Chongqing and sought shelter with U.S. diplomats. Handing himself over to security officials from Beijing he refused to leave with armed police officers sent by Bo from Chongqing. “He did not want to die,” Li said. [Source: Andrew Higgins, Washington Post, March 4, 2012]

Wang Lijun as Chongqing’s Gang-busting Police Chief

Wang Lijun was Chongqing’s police chief. Tania Branigan wrote in The Guardian, he became famous nationwide after leading a crackdown against organised crime in Chongqing launched by the region's high-profile party secretary, Bo Xilai. Their controversial anti-gang campaign led to more than 1,500 arrests and culminated in the execution of the city's former deputy police chief and top justice official, Wen Qiang, for corruption, rape and shielding organised crime. More than a dozen people caught up in Chongqing’s crackdown on crime have been executed. Others committed suicide.[Source: Tania Branigan, The Guardian, February 3, 2012]

Chongqing officials have reportedly commissioned a four-volume history of the anti-triad campaign, with a film and television series to follow. Wang's career seems made for the movies; according to the South China Morning Post, he has 20 scars from knife and bullet wounds and was once in a coma for 10 days due to his longterm battle with the triads.

The crackdown proved hugely popular with many residents—"If Wang is not in charge of the PSB, is Chongqing still going to be safe?" one commentator asked—although critics were alarmed by its methods. There was particular concern at the jailing of a lawyer for his defence of an alleged gang boss . Others argue it is impossible to root out organised crime because of the gang bosses' powerful connections.

In early February 2012, Chongqing's information office said on its blog the party committee had given Wang a new portfolio in charge of economic affairs in place of his public security post, the South China Morning Post reported. A few hours later, the office revised its message to say the 52-year-old would be in charge of issues including education, the environment and industrial and commercial management.

The abrupt transferral sent China's internet rumour mill into overdrive."A hero who fought as a triad-buster has been pushed aside to a vice-mayor position without real power—it is not only sadness for Chongqing but the whole of China," said one of many bloggers speculating that Wang was being sidelined because the portfolio was relatively junior.

But Bo Zhiyue, an expert on Chinese politics at the National University of Singapore, suggested the move was designed to prepare Wang—who became vice-mayor last spring—for higher office. "I think this is actually career enhancement ... To be promoted along the political path, to a mayor or provincial governor, he has to learn to deal with different issues," he said.

Lin Zhe, a professor with the party school of the CPC central committee, told the state-run Global Times newspaper: "Chongqing's work in cracking down on criminal gangs was called to an end early in 2010, when a meeting in the city was held to summarise the achievements of cracking down on gangs. "So Wang has fulfilled his task as an anti-gang hero, and it is time for him to explore new spaces in other fields."

Hu Jintao Draws Blood with the Wang Lijun Scandal

Willy Lam wrote in China Brief: “After apparently engineering the contretemps that have hit Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai, President Hu Jintao is putting additional pressure on other members of the Gang of Princelings—the political faction composed of senior cadres’ offspring. The political fortunes of Bo have nosedived following the recent detention of his key protégé, Wang Lijun, on alleged “economic crimes.” Regardless of the veracity about the speculation that the 62-year-old princeling offered to resign from the Politburo, Bo’s chances for making the Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) at the 18th Party Congress later this year seem over...Bo reportedly wrote a “letter of self-criticism” to the PBSC in which he blamed himself for failing to detect the alleged corruption and other misdemeanors of Wang. [Source: Willy Lam, China Brief (Jamestown Foundation), March 2, 2012]

Political observers in Beijing are closely watching two related developments. The first is which senior cadre will likely acquire the PBSC seat which Bo seemed to have a high chance of filling. The second and perhaps more significant issue is the fate of the so-called “Chongqing Model” associated with Bo, particularly the large-scale resuscitation of Maoist values and culture that is symbolized by the popular ‘singing red songs’ (changhong) campaign. Since the Wang Lijun saga, however, the mainstream media has been replete with commentaries advocating ideological and political liberalization. Particularly given that other pedigreed cadres such as Vice President Xi Jinping also have taken part in the changhong movement, are these pro-reformist articles yet another weapon used by President Hu and his associates to lay into the Gang of Princelings? Are there also possibilities that the recent outburst of reformist sentiments will persist beyond the 18th CCP Congress?

That Hu had a hand in bringing down Wang—and in the process crippling Bo’s promotion prospects—was attested to by reports in Beijing that in 2011 he asked the Central Commission for Disciplinary Inspection (CCDI) to investigate corruption-related offences allegedly committed by Wang and his colleagues in Tieling... Wang’s replacement as Chongqing Police Chief is 42-year-old Guan Haixiang, who spent 15 years in the Communist Youth League’s regional and central offices but has no experience in police or political-legal system (zhengfa xitong) work.

Bo Xilai-Wang Lijun Meeting Before Wang Flees to the U.S. Consulate

On a meeting between Bo Xilai and Wang Lijun that took place before Wang fled to the Chengdu consulate, Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times: “According to a quasi-official version of that meeting—one presumably based on Mr. Wang’s account to Chinese investigators and circulated among party officials, Bo met with Wang Lijun on January 28, 2012 and presented Bo with evidence that Mr. Bo’s wife had been involved in a murder. Bo reportedly reacted angrily to Mr. Wang’s accusations. Wang told American officials he met in the nearby city of Chengdu and others that Mr. Bo punched him in the face.” [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, June 7, 2012]

The Japanese newspaper the Yomiuri Shimbun reported that Bo yelled, "Stop being an idiot!" as he punched Wang in the face. The newspaper also said that at the end of January, Wang tried to visit Bo to offer him greetings during Chinese New Year, but was turned away at the door. As he drove to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu, he telephoned a Chinese newspaper reporter he had met only once. "I fear my life could be in danger if I'm left alone with Bo," he said. When Wang fled to the Chengdu consulate, the New York Times reported, he begged for protection from Bo. Some people described Wang at the time as being unreasonably fearful, or even mentally unstable. [Ibid]

“Wong wrote in the New York Times: “Later “a different story has circulated among several people close to the two men, according to those who have heard it described to them. And it is a version of events that paints Mr. Bo in a different light, one that shows him as being less emotional and more calculating. That version goes like this: Mr. Wang actually confronted Mr. Bo on Jan. 18 with evidence linking Mr. Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, to the murder by poisoning of Neil Heywood, a British businessman and longtime friend of the Bo family. It was the first that Mr. Bo had heard of his wife’s alleged involvement in the death. Mr. Bo agreed at the time to allow Mr. Wang to act against his wife based on the evidence, even if that meant Ms. Gu would be put on trial. At the meeting, Mr. Wang also told Mr. Bo that three police officers had asked to be transferred from the investigation after they discovered the murder was tied to Mr. Bo’s family. [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, June 7, 2012]

That story was told to friends by Yu Junshi, a shadowy fixer in Mr. Bo’s inner court. Mr. Yu worked in the 1990s as an overseas intelligence agent and owned two dogs that bit a man to death in Chongqing in July 2011. He was also close to Mr. Wang and has been detained in the party’s broad investigation into Mr. Bo, who was dismissed as party chief of Chongqing in March and suspended from the party’s Politburo the next month. “At the meeting, Bo Xilai said, “Leave me alone for a while and let me think about this,” said a person who has met Mr. Yu and spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of being officially questioned over the events. “Then, to show he’s righteous, Bo Xilai said he would be willing to allow his wife to be tried.” Mr. Wang was pleased because Mr. Bo’s reaction showed that Mr. Bo trusted Mr. Wang, the person said, citing the story told by Mr. Yu. [Ibid]

“But on Jan. 21, Chen Cungen, the head of the Chongqing party branch’s organization department, which oversees personnel issues, told Mr. Wang that he would be transferred from the police chief post, according to the story that Mr. Yu told his friends. Then on Jan. 28, both Mr. Chen and Liu Guanglei, the head of the local politics and law committee, gave Mr. Wang formal notice of his removal from the police force. In this account, Mr. Bo did not deliver the message in person to Mr. Wang; the two never met again after their talk on Jan. 18. “Wang Lijun knows how to fool people,” said the person who has met Mr. Yu. “He appeared to accept this demotion to fool them.” [Ibid]

“But Mr. Wang was furious, and Mr. Yu met with him the night of Jan. 31 in a suite in police headquarters. Mr. Yu did not emerge until dawn. On Feb. 6, four days after his transfer was publicly announced, Mr. Wang drove to the United States Consulate in Chengdu with a file on the Heywood death, after having asked another senior police official, Wang Pengfei, to arrange a car, said people with police contacts in Chongqing. In the murky, rumor-filled world surrounding Mr. Bo’s downfall, it is unclear exactly where the truth lies in the different accounts of the final meeting between Mr. Bo and Mr. Wang, the police chief. Mr. Bo is known to be both baroque and shrewd, and he could have reacted in any number of ways in the meeting, people familiar with the two men say. [Ibid]

Wang Lijun Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison

In September 2012, a Chinese court Wang Lijun, a former police chief, guilty of four criminal charges according to a report by Xinhua, the state news agency. Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times, Mr. Wang, 52, originally from Inner Mongolia, was found guilty of defection, abuse of power, taking bribes and bending the law for personal gain, the report said. The People’s Intermediate Court in Chengdu, where the trial took place last week, sentenced Mr. Wang to 15 years in prison.[Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, September 23, 2012]

Verdicts in Chinese criminal cases, especially those with a political dimension, are often predetermined. Mr. Wang’s sentence was relatively lenient; court officials had made the argument in his trial that mitigating factors should be taken into account when determining the verdict and punishment. With Mr. Wang’s trial over, Mr. Bo is the one remaining major figure in the matter yet to be tried.

Xinhua released an official account of Mr. Wang’s trial, including testimony asserting that Mr. Bo had slapped Mr. Wang on January 29, a day after Mr. Wang told Mr. Bo about his suspicions over Ms. Gu’s role in the Heywood murder. The Xinhua article did not name Mr. Bo as the person who slapped Mr. Wang, but the phrase used to describe him left no doubt about the slapper’s identity. The accusation of illegal surveillance (part of the abuses of power) was apparently related to Mr. Wang’s tenure as Chongqing police chief. [Ibid]

Some Republicans criticized the Obama administration in February for not giving Mr. Wang asylum. But American officials have said Mr. Wang did not apply for asylum. They said that he had feared being taken into custody by officials under Mr. Bo, but that after making calls to Beijing he appeared confident that would not happen and left the consulate of his own volition. The Xinhua account said Mr. Wang had filed an application for asylum during his 33-hour stay at the United States Consulate. [Ibid]

Wang Lijun’s Trial

Edward Wong write in the New York Times: “The official account of the trial also emphasized arguments from both the prosecutors and defense lawyers asking the court to show leniency toward Mr. Wang. The account said Mr. Wang had cooperated with investigations into transgressions by others. This was a reference to Ms. Gu’s case, but it might also have indicated that Mr. Wang helped with the inquiries concerning Mr. Bo. [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, September 23, 2012]

Court officials also laid out Mr. Wang’s role in the Heywood murder. Mr. Wang was accused of helping cover up for Ms. Gu after she told him that she had killed Mr. Heywood, and he was formally charged with bending the law for personal gain. Court officials also said that one day before the murder, Mr. Wang spoke about Mr. Heywood with Ms. Gu and agreed to keep the Briton under surveillance. [Ibid]

During Ms. Gu’s trial, court officials said Ms. Gu had killed Mr. Heywood because she believed he was threatening her son, Bo Guagua. The court account of Mr. Wang’s trial had a bizarre description of the son’s trying to drive to meet Mr. Wang at a city outside Chongqing one night and almost getting into an accident. That story was included in the account to show rising tensions between Mr. Wang and Ms. Gu in the weeks after the murder. [Ibid]

After Bo Xilai hit Mr. Wang on Jan. 19, the account said, Mr. Wang ordered his police allies to collect evidence that would show Ms. Gu’s involvement in the murder. Mr. Wang had several police officers keep separate pieces of evidence, including a blood sample from Mr. Heywood’s heart and a secret recording Mr. Wang had made of Ms. Gu confessing to him. After the authorities took him to Beijing, the account said, Mr. Wang asked a police ally, Li Yang, to turn over the blood sample to investigators. Mr. Wang’s lawyer, Wang Yuncai, who is not related to Mr. Wang, has said the Xinhua account of the proceedings was mostly accurate. But she disputed the accusation that Mr. Wang had taken bribes from two associates of the Bo family. [Ibid]

The Xinhua account said Ms. Gu had testified that Mr. Wang initially promised to help cover up the crime. “He asked me to forget about it,” she said, according to the report. “It would have nothing to do with me in the future.” When Mr. Heywood’s body was discovered at a Chongqing hotel on Nov. 15, Mr. Wang specifically assigned a policeman, Guo Weiguo, to take charge of the investigation and recalled another officer who was already on the scene. The next morning, four policemen—Mr. Guo and three others—all agreed to report that Mr. Heywood died after drinking too much alcohol. Mr. Wang supported the assessment, the account said. The four policemen were tried in a separate trial for protecting Ms. Gu and found guilty. [Ibid]

The account said that on Nov. 17, Mr. Wang gave Ms. Gu the digital recording from a surveillance camera at the hotel where Mr. Heywood had died. It showed that Ms. Gu was the last person to leave the room that night. Mr. Wang explained in testimony why he had protected Ms. Gu. “After arriving in Chongqing, I frequently went to Bogu Kailai’s home,” he said. “I felt Bogu Kailai was quite nice to me.” Bogu is the official but rarely used surname of Bo Xilai's wife, Gu Kailai. [Ibid]

The trial was conducted behind closed doors in the imposing, grey stone Chengdu City Intermediate People's Court. Terril Yue Jones of Reuters wrote: Foreign reporters were barred from attending the trial amid tight security around the court house. A spokesman for the Chengdu Intermediate Court read out a statement to reporters in a nearby hotel, but no mention was made of Bo. "The accused Wang Lijun voluntarily gave himself up after committing the crime of defection, and then gave a truthful account of the main crimes involved in his defection," court spokesman Yang Yuguan said. [Source: Terril Yue Jones, Reuters, September 18, 2012]

"The accused Wang Lijun voluntarily gave himself up after committing the crime of defection, and then gave a truthful account of the main crimes involved in his defection," said the official statement published by state media. "The accused Wang Lijun exposed leads concerning major criminal offences by others, and played an important role in investigating and dealing with the cases concerned."

Wang Lijun Paralyzed by Mysterious Illness: Boxun

In July 2013, Boxun, an overseas Chinese community website offering an alternative source of news on China, reported that Wang Lijun had been struck down by a mysterious paralyzing illness in prison, reports. According to Boxun's Beijing source, Wang has been paralyzed from the waist down and bedridden for nearly a month after being suddenly inflicted with a mysterious illness that doctors have yet to properly diagnose. The news has shocked his friends, who claim that Wang had seemed fine not that long ago and had been doing a lot of reading and practising calligraphy, the source said. [Source: Want China Times, July 7, 2013]

"A former subordinate of Wang's in Chongqing said the disgraced police chief suffered from a fatigue-related syndrome many years ago that affected his nervous system, and wondered whether the recent illness could be related. Though the truth of the report has not been verified, it has triggered speculation over whether Wang's mysterious debilitating condition could be linked to Bo's criminal trial. Wang was regarded as a key witness in the trial as it was the evidence he turned over to authorities that ended Bo's career and resulted in a suspended death sentence for Bo's wife Gu Kailai, who was convicted of the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood." [Ibid]

The 53-year-old Wang has been serving his 15-year sentence at Beijing's Qincheng maximum security prison since September 2012.

This argument claims that the attempted "coup" on the night of March 19 was launched by Zhou, though he is not named. (This on the surface is probable as Zhou could command the police, but in fact it is impossible because Zhongnanhai is tightly guarded by military soldiers - not the police). It also happened that on the day of March 19, Zhou presided over a national conference of law enforcement officials on how to maintain stability.

Two days later, another rumor surged that Zhou "has been kept under surveillance". Beijing was forced to react this time, at least partially in order to quash the rumor. State-run Xinhua News Agency reported on March 22 that Zhou had written a letter to a conference on law enforcement in Shanghai. Apart from all the officialese, Zhou hails in his letter the "correct leadership" of the party power center "headed by General Secretory Hu Jintao". In other words, he was given the opportunity to make known his position that he is on the side of Hu. Zhou then made a public appearance on March 26, attending the opening ceremony of a training class for regional party officials in charge of law enforcement in Beijing. Zhou called on all law enforcement officials across the country to "keep in line with" the party central leadership "on matters of principle".

Rumors of a Coup During the Height of the Bo Xilai Affair

Wu Zhong wrote in the Asia Times, While the authorities can forcefully ban open criticism, they have failed to stop the rumor mill. The most shocking rumors emerged on the Internet during the night of March 19, with some people saying "Military vehicles are rolling into Beijing", and that a "Curfew has been imposed on [Beijing's] Chang'an Street" and that "Gunshots are heard". [Source: Wu Zhong, Asia Times, March 28, 2012]

If not true, the messages metaphorically implied that the Communist Party's top leadership was split and "a new Gang of Four had been smashed". The "Gang of Four" refers to a faction in the politburo during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) headed by Mao Zedong's last wife, Jiang Qing, and supported by Mao. Less than a month after Mao's death, they were arrested in what overseas China watchers called a "coup d'etat", on October 6, 1976. These rumors were immediately challenged and refuted with strong evidence by other web surfers. As a result, inside China, the rumors died almost as quickly as they had emerged. This is a convincing example of freedom of speech in action; rumors cannot last long.

Still, the next day, Epoch Times, a newspaper run by the anti-communist Falungong, picked up on the rumors and splashed a big story. This caused a scare in Hong Kong, where the stock market dipped, although this was attributed to an adjustment, and most newspapers in Hong Kong did not play up the story. The suspicion is that the rumors were started by the new leftists and Bo's supporters, who want to see their ilk fighting at the power center against the established ruling elite.

As a Chinese saying has it, "There are no waves without wind." So why then did the rumors emerge and quickly spread” Zhou Yongkang, one of the nine members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo and in charge of law enforcement, was the first Standing Committee member to visit Chongqing. He gave high praise to Bo's campaigns to crack down on gangsters and to sing "Red Songs". Hearsay has it that Zhou's godson, Kong Tao, is a close friend of Wang. Through Wang, Bo became close to Zhou, supposition has it.

Ian Johnson wrote in the New York Times: China started a sweeping crackdown of its vibrant social networking media over the weekend, detaining six people, closing 16 Web sites and shutting off the comment function for China’s two most popular microblogs, run by Sina.com and Tencent. The campaign, which was put in place in stages over two days was directly linked to the political instability that has gripped China since one of its most charismatic politicians, Bo Xilai, lost his post in March. That spurred rumors of a coup, which the government-run Xinhua news agency cited as the reason for the measures. [Source: Ian Johnson, New York Times, March 31, 2012]

Xinhua quoted an official with the State Internet Information Office as saying that the sites had spread reports of “military vehicles entering Beijing and something wrong going on in Beijing.” The reports, which Xinhua said were carried on the sites meizhou.net, xn528.com and cndy.com.cn, stemmed from disagreements among senior leaders over whether to remove Mr. Bo, who is being investigated over accusations of corruption and abuse of power. One of his backers, the senior leader Zhou Yongkang, was said to be behind the planned coup, although most Chinese analysts have discounted this as a fabrication.

China Cracks Down on the Websites of Bo Xilai's Supporters

Dexter Roberts of Bloomberg wrote: It’s the latest crackdown on China’s rambunctious Web. On April 6 nationalist website Utopia, which had run hundreds of articles supporting former Party Secretary Bo Xilai and the Chongqing model, named after the southwestern city he ran with neo-Maoist zeal, was shut down indefinitely. That followed an initial shuttering of Utopia, at the time of Bo’s dismissal on March 15, with the site then allowed to reopen just days later. [Source: Dexter Roberts, Bloomberg, April 09, 2012]

According to a notice posted on Utopia the day of its latest closure, local Internet and public security bureaus informed the site it was being punished for publishing “articles that violated the constitution, maliciously attacked state leaders, and speculated wildly about the 18th Party Congress (this Congress takes place in the fall and will mark the transition to a new leadership). Utopia was told it must undergo “a self-inspection beginning from noon on April 6, 2012, to be brought back online after an examination was passed,” explained the initial notice. That notice was later replaced by one simply saying, “Website under construction.”

Even as Beijing once again asserts its heavy hand over the Chinese Web, many are wondering why it waited so long. Indeed, more notable than the latest crackdown has been the surprising openness allowed over the past month. That’s not to say there has been any trend of liberalization, however, argues Jeremy Goldkorn, founding director of Beijing-based Danwei, a China Internet and media research firm. He points to the new rule that requires bloggers to use their real names to register—only partially enforced, to date—as proof of a counter, tightening trend.

Tabloid Politics Chinese-Style and the Bo Xilai Affair

Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times: The Bo Xilai affair became a raging tabloid-style scandal (minus the tabloids because China has none) with a dead Englishman, a fiery sports car crash and an attempted defection to the US. “The mystery of palace politics is more entertaining than democracy, where everything can be analyzed,” Chinese columnist Chang Ping wrote last week. “There can be fierce fighting even until death behind the black curtains and if any sign of blood leaks, people get really excited. [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2012]

“You see, China does have politics and it is more interesting than in the United States,” said Yang Jianli, a Chinese dissident who lives in Washington. Of course, not a word of it has been in the Chinese press. But officials within the Communist Party—like the opposition research team for an American politician—appear to be making deliberate leaks. “In the past, all of the negative reports about Bo Xilai were blocked. Now all of the positive reports are deleted and the negative ones can stay online. It’s been a little bit confusing,” said Li Ping, 24, who is working on a master’s degree at Chongqing University.

The damaging internal report that accused Bo of obstructing an investigation appeared on Boxun.com, a US-based Chinese-language site that has become like Politico for China’s political junkies. The Epoch Times, run by the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, has also carried many of the reports.

Even stranger, Wang’s run to the US Consulate was covered in minute-by-minute detail on Sina Weibo, the Twitter-like microblog popular in China. The blogger, who used the pseudonym Sun Dapao, described dialogue between the US officials and Wang and added intriguing details - for example, that Wang had managed to slip out of his home undetected by disguising himself as an elderly woman. “Highly entertaining, like gossip with tea,” is how Ran Yunfei, a Chengdu-based writer-activist, described the unfolding scandal. Ultimately the government launched an Internet crackdown that shuttered some web sites and limited access to Sina Weibo.

Ferrari Crash Spurs Rumors

Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times: a fiery car crash in Beijing involving a black Ferrari prompted rumors that a witness in the Heywood case had been killed or perhaps one of the Politburo members’ children—who are known to favor overpriced sports cars. [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, April 7, 2012]

Mark McDonald wrote in the New York Times: the precipitous fall of Bo Xilai, has read like a John le Carré rewrite of Raymond Chandler...Here’s the No. 9 story, as reported by Baidu Beat: “At around 4 a.m. Sunday morning, a Ferrari crashed into a bridge in Beijing, killing one passenger and severely injuring the other two. The cause of the crash is unknown." Bloggers, microbloggers and tweeters quickly seized on the story, lighting up the Sinosphere with photos, rants and rumors. The intrigue grew when the Beijing police refused to comment about the accident. [Source: Mark McDonald, New York Times, March 20, 2012]

Leo Lewis wrote in The Times: “Censors in China have excised the word Ferrari from the country's biggest social networking sites in an attempt to suppress all public discussion of a sensitive mystery car crash. The ban followed a burst of speculation that the young driver killed in the high-speed accident on Sunday may have been the son of a senior Communist Party official, thus raising awkward questions about how a civil servant could afford to buy his offspring one of the world's most desirable and expensive cars. [Source: Leo Lewis, The Times, March 20, 2012]

Internet censors have been busy since the sacking of Bo Xilai as party boss of the sprawling city of Chongqing. His name and those of other family members have been blocked as search items. The Government appears especially keen to snuff out speculation about Mr Bo amid reports that he may be under house arrest pending a fuller investigation of his conduct. Mr Bo has his own Ferrari link: he recently dismissed as nonsense that his Harrow and Oxford-educated son, Bo Guagua, drove a red Ferrari.The exact circumstances of Sunday's crash, beyond the fact that pictures of the twisted wreckage clearly showed it was a black Ferrari, are unclear. The driver, thought to have been in his 20s, was travelling with two young women sharing the single passenger seat. They reportedly survived the crash but with severe injuries.

Bo Xilai Sacked and Ousted from at the Coomunist Party

In mid March 2012 AP reported: China's Communist Party replaced Bo Xilai after weeks of speculation following Wang Lijun’s fleeing to a U.S .consulate, a move that set off a public scandal affecting the country's looming once-a-decade leadership transition. The move to replace Bo Xilai appears to effectively end the public career of one of China's most highly ambitious and unusually flamboyant leaders, whose professional tribulations had dominated political discussions in recent weeks. . [Source: AP, March 14, 2012]

Ben Blanchard and Chris Buckley of Reuters wrote: “In past parliament sessions Bo has swept in, all smiles and lanky grace, preceded by a wave of TV cameras and popping flashbulbs, but this time he was uncharacteristically restrained when he appeared at a rare and packed news conference on the sidelines of the annual meeting. Bo rolled his eyes at repeated questions from foreign reporters about a scandal involving a one-time top aide, then-Vice Mayor Wang Lijun, and the normally effusive state media and parliament delegates kept their distance. [Source: Ben Blanchard and Chris Buckley, Reuters, March 15, 2012]

In mid April 2012, Reuters reported: “China's Communist Party has banished the country's brashest and most controversial politician from its top ranks and detained his wife in connection with the murder of a British businessman, the most tumultuous upheaval in the nation's leadership in decades. The decision to cast out Bo Xilai from the party's Central Committee and its Politburo effectively ends the career of the former high-flyer, widely seen as pressing for a top post in China's next leadership to be decided later this year. [Source: Chris Buckley and Benjamin Kang Lim, Reuters, April 11, 2012]

"Comrade Bo Xilai is suspected of being involved in serious disciplinary violations," said Xinhua, citing a decision by the central party leadership to banish Bo from its top ranks.

After the announcements, the People's Daily, the chief mouthpiece of the Communist Party, told officials and citizens to unite around President Hu Jintao. "(This) appears to represent the top leadership finally reaching an agreement that it must be seen to hang together in the run-up to the leadership succession, in order to put an end to the many wild speculations surrounding the Bo case," said Steve Tsang, a professor of Chinese studies at Nottingham University in Britain.

"This means that Bo's political career is effectively over," Chen Ziming, an independent political scholar in Beijing, said before the announcement, citing rumours of Bo's suspension. The decision to suspend Bo from the party's top bodies does not mean he has been expelled from the party.

Wang Lijun's Testimony Implicates Bo

The Chinese government released an official account of the trial of Wang Lijun that essentially accused the disgraced politician Bo Xilai of trying to cover up the murder of Nick Heywood by Bo’s wife. Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times, The account was published by Xinhua said Mr. Lijun, told Mr. Bo on January 28 that his wife, Gu Kailai, was a serious suspect in the murder of Heywood. The next morning, Mr. Bo, scolded Mr. Wang and slapped him in the face, the report said. [Source: Edward Wong, September 19, 2012]

The fact that the Chinese government cited that incident in its official report of Mr. Wang’s trial, which took place in Chengdu is the surest sign yet that Mr. Bo could be charged with covering up the murder. Until now, there had been little sign of how the party might deal with his case; some analysts had said Mr. Bo might avoid criminal charges and be subject to party discipline measures instead. [Ibid]

The account of Mr. Wang’s trial suggests that Mr. Bo could be dealt with more harshly than some had expected. Mr. Bo’s name was not mentioned in the Xinhua report, but the phrase used to describe the person Mr. Wang told about the Heywood murder—“the Chongqing party committee’s main person responsible at the time”—is an unmistakable reference. [Ibid]

The Xinhua report does not say why Mr. Wang decided to confront Mr. Bo with the Heywood murder. But after Mr. Bo slapped him on Jan. 29, Mr. Wang asked three police allies to again collect evidence of Mr. Heywood’s murder. He instructed the police officers to keep the evidence in separate places, the report said. After he was taken to Beijing, he wrote a letter to one of the police allies, Li Yang, instructing him to give Mr. Heywood’s blood sample to investigators. [Ibid]

The account also laid out bribes that Mr. Wang had taken. It said Xu Ming, a tycoon close to the Bo family, gave Mr. Wang two properties in Beijing in 2009 that Mr. Xu had bought for more than $450,000. In July of that year, Mr. Wang released three people from custody at Mr. Xu’s request, the account said. Mr. Wang also took nearly $32,000 from Yu Junshi, a businessman, for the rental of Mr. Wang’s villa in Chongqing, the report said. In return, Mr. Wang released a detainee. Mr. Yu is a former military intelligence officer who worked as a fixer for the Bo family. Wang Yuncai, a lawyer for Mr. Wang, ontended that Mr. Wang had not taken bribes from Mr. Xu and Mr. Yu. Instead, she said, Ms. Gu arranged those favors through the men for Mr. Wang and Mr. Wang did not regard them as payments and did no favors in return. [Ibid]

Charges Against Bo Xilai

Bo was suspended from the Politburo and put under investigation for “serious disciplinary violations" of Communist Party rules. Bo has not been seen publicly in months. He is being held incommunicado at an unknown location but is believed to be held in Beijing.

In July 2012, Reuters reported: “The party’s vague wording indicates that Mr. Bo is at least accused of obstructing justice in the investigation of his wife, Gu Kailai. Gu Kailai, stands accused by party investigators of murdering a British family friend, Neil Heywood, in a dispute over money. Neither Mr. Bo nor Ms. Gu have been given an opportunity to defend themselves publicly. But shortly before his dismissal, Reuters reported, Bo said that he and his family had been the victims of slanderous accusations by foes of his policies, especially his controversial crackdown on organized crime. Since Bo's sacking, supporters of his left-leaning policies and rhetoric have continued to argue that he is the victim of a political plot. [Source: Michael Martina and Chris Buckley, Reuters, July 26, 2012]

Initially it appeared that the case would be taken care of quietly but now there are signs that the very top of the party has agreed that Mr. Bo will be formally charged, the New York Times reported. “The lower levels of the party still have to figure out exactly what the charges and details look like, but the leadership agrees on how his case should be handled,” a senior party member in the party’s organization department told the Times. “It’s over.” [Ibid]

“In June 2012, The Guardian reported that authorities were also examining whether Bo was aware of his wife's actions. They detained dozens of people associated with him, including drivers and aides who worked for him when he was mayor of north-eastern Dalian in the 1990s, and questioned hundreds of people who had dealt with him, including business people and figures from the entertainment world. [Source: Tania Branigan, The Guardian, June 22, 2012]

Gu Kailai's (Bo's Wife's) Trial and Bo Xilai

After the Gu Kailai trial, Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times: “Bo was the biggest elephant in the room. There was one prosaic mention of his name, but no exploration of whether he had played any role in the crime. Also absent was his former aide, Wang Lijun, that pivotal player who started the case’s unraveling. Perhaps the most glaring omission was the trial’s failure to discuss the so-called economic dispute underlying the crime. Prosecutors said Mr. Heywood had been demanding $22 million from the family for a failed real estate venture. Many wondered how Mr. Bo, a civil servant, and Ms. Gu, who had not worked in years, might have been expected to come up with such a sum. The implication, many analysts say, is that the Communist Party was eager to avoid highlighting the sort of unbridled official corruption that many Chinese believe is endemic. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, August 20, 2012]

After Gu Kailai’s trial Associated Press commented: Trying disgraced politician Bo Xilai's wife for murder was the easy part in cleaning up the political mess the couple has created for China's communist party. Now comes the tough bit: punishing Bo for abuse of power without further tarnishing the party's reputation.Disciplining him quietly will save the party the embarrassment of washing its dirty linen in public but reinforce public perception that it goes soft on one of its own. Analysts say the leadership is therefore more likely to bite the bullet and try Bo in public. Time is growing tight for an announcement, since the party may want to deal with the matter ahead of a national congress this fall that will usher in a once-in-a-decade transfer of power to new leaders. [Source: Associated Press, August 13, 2012]

“John Ruwitch of Reuters wrote: “In sketching out the case against Gu for the first time, the court official also revealed that four Chinese policemen had now been charged with trying to protect her from investigation - a development that could prove dangerous for Bo, who has so far not been charged with any criminal offence. Police sources in Chongqing have said that the former Politburo member tried to shut down the investigation into his wife after being told she was a suspect. [Source: John Ruwitch, Reuters, August 9, 2012]

“As the trial took place, police dragged two Bo supporters into an unmarked car after they appeared outside the courthouse, singing patriotic songs that were the trademark of Bo's populist leadership style and condemning the trial as a sham. "I don't believe it. This case was decided well in advance," Hu Jiye, a middle-aged man wearing a T-shirt and baseball cap, told foreign reporters at the rear of the court building, which was cordoned off by dozens of police standing in heavy rain. [Ibid]

Political Attacks Against Bo Xilai

Bo acquired many enemies in his political career. Michael Wines wrote in the New York Times, “But it seems plain that Mr. Bo’s rivals within the elite are trying to make the most of his travails...An emerging drip of corruption-related disclosures this week, largely in a Chinese news media that normally exists in a state-dictated chokehold, points to an orchestrated campaign to paint Mr. Bo and his relatives as mired in graft and greed. [Source: Michael Wines, New York Times, April 12, 2012]

The effect could be to neuter a politician whose populist policies of wealth redistribution and corruption-fighting had endeared him to citizens of Chongqing and were gaining traction elsewhere in the nation. “It was very brutal, very tough,” said Jing Huang, a scholar of Chinese politics who heads the Center on Asia and Globalization at the National University of Singapore. “This sends a message to anyone who is behind Bo to back off. They are making Bo the poster child of corruption and crime.” [Ibid]

“Some feel Bo was set up, even framed. Duncan Hewitt wrote in China Beat: “Even some who did not necessarily sympathize with the campaigns to promote traditional socialist culture which Mr. Bo ran in Chongqing---which seemed to alarm some people in the central leadership---were suspicious, rightly or wrongly, that his ouster should have come just as he was apparently getting close to an even more powerful post in China’s leadership transition later this year. [Source: Duncan Hewitt China Beat, April 17, 2012]

‘some people close to Mr. Bo appear to have avoided severe repercussions for now, including the district party chief Xu Ming, a close adviser of Mr. Bo’s whose fate was in question in late March, businesspeople in Chongqing said. A local news Web site, Hualong, noted that Mr. Xu made an appearance on April 10 at a meeting of district party officials where he pledged to support the decisions about Mr. Bo. The same day, the party announced that Mr. Bo had been suspended from his post in the 25-member Politburo. News organizations in Chongqing have reported in recent days that Mr. Xu has been appearing at events, signaling that he still has his job and is not under detention. Mr. Xu was a main architect of the famous “red song” campaign that Mr. Bo started in 2008, in which the Chongqing government urged schools, workers and neighborhood groups to organize singalongs of Maoist classics. [Ibid]

“The detention and replacement of officials in Chongqing have taken place under the watch of Zhang Dejiang, a vice prime minister who was sent from Beijing to serve as party chief in Chongqing after Mr. Bo’s ouster. Cheng Li , an expert in Chinese politics at the Brookings Institution, said in an interview with the National Bureau of Asian Research that it was important to note that Mr. Zhang is an ally of Jiang Zemin , the former top leader of China. Mr. Bo was also considered, in a broad sense, to be an ally of Mr. Jiang’s. Mr. Li said the fact that party leaders agreed that one of Mr. Jiang’s men should replace Mr. Bo showed that there was no significant split on the issue between the Jiang faction and the faction led by Hu Jintao , the current Chinese president and party chief. “This appointment means that a deal has been made and the top leadership of the party is united,” Mr. Li said. [Ibid]

Bo Xilai Loyalists Detained and Ousted

Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times: “Officials in critical Communist Party and government posts in Chongqing who are considered loyalists of Bo Xilai...are being detained as part of the wide-ranging investigation into Mr. Bo and his family, according to a Chongqing official and other people with knowledge of political appointments in the city. The detentions are part of an attempt by the central Communist Party to dismantle Mr. Bo’s support network and build a case against him and his wife, Gu Kailai. [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, April 19, 2012]

“The detentions and, in some cases, replacements of Mr. Bo’s allies began soon after party leaders ousted him on March 15 as the Chongqing party chief, said people in Chongqing and Beijing. Among the Communist officials detained after Mr. Bo was removed from his post was Wu Wenkang, the deputy secretary general of the municipal party branch, who was considered one of a handful of people in the Bo family’s inner circle, according to businesspeople in Chongqing. Jiang Weiping, a Chinese journalist living in Canada who came into conflict with Mr. Bo after writing about him, said Mr. Wu had been close to Mr. Bo since Mr. Bo’s tenure as mayor of Dalian, a coastal city in the northeastern province of Liaoning. Mr. Wu moved to Chongqing after Mr. Bo became party secretary there in 2007. [Ibid]

“Guo Weiguo, a Chongqing police official who was also close to Mr. Bo in Liaoning Province, was recently detained as well. Senior party officials have appointed He Ting, a former vice governor of Qinghai Province, to Mr. Wang’s old job as police chief. Mr. He previously served as chief of the Ministry of Public Security’s criminal investigation department. And Chen Cungen, the head of the municipal party committee’s powerful organization department, was replaced in late March by Xu Songnan, who held the same job in the Ningxia region. One Chongqing official said that Xia Zeliang, the party chief of Nanan district in Chongqing, had also been detained. Another important associate of Mr. Bo’s whose English name is also spelled as Xu Ming (the Chinese name has different words) has vanished and is presumed to be under investigation. This Mr. Xu, 41, is the billionaire founder and chairman of the Dalian Shide Group, a conglomerate with vast holdings. [Ibid]

David Ignatius wrote in the Washington Post: “The Financial Times reported that Zhou Yongkang, one of Bo’s key backers on the Politburo’s standing committee, had been forced to give up control of China’s police, judiciary and secret police. The Wall Street Journal wrote that two senior Chinese military officials, Gen. Liu Yuan and Gen. Zhang Haiyang, had been questioned about their links to Bo. Such rumors abound, all impossible to verify. Though Bo has been attacked as a “princeling” son of the party elite, some of the Politburo members who ousted him are princelings, too, including Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and Xi himself. The full array of targets in the anti-Bo campaign is not yet clear, so the fallout is hard to predict. [Source: David Ignatius, Washington Post, May 18, 2012]

Bo Xilai Indicted

In July 2013, Bo Xilai was indicted on criminal charges of bribery, corruption and abuse of power. The government originally implicated Bo in helping to cover up Heywood's murder, but the legal indictment issued made no mention of that. Edward Wong and Jonathan Ansfield wrote in the New York Times, “The charges were filed at a court in Jinan, the capital of Shandong Province, in eastern China, a court employee said. Officials from Shandong have been in Chongqing recently to discuss trial details there, according to one person in Chongqing with official contacts. [Source: Edward Wong and Jonathan Ansfield, New York Times, July 24, 2013]

The party’s General Office has circulated an internal document giving further details of the basis for the charges, said one person in Beijing with high-level contacts. The document accused Mr. Bo, 64, of taking about $3.3 million in bribes, embezzling almost $1 million and abusing his power as a senior official. The document also said a main source of the bribes was Xu Ming, a billionaire who lives in Dalian, the northeastern city where Mr. Bo had been the mayor.

Mr. Xu, once listed by Forbes as one of the 10 richest people in China, has been detained since spring 2012 and is also expected to be criminally charged. Mr. Xu entered into real estate ventures in Chongqing after Mr. Bo became party chief there in December 2007, and he made frequent trips on his private plane to the city. Mr. Xu was part of an inner circle of Bo family allies that included Ma Biao, a business executive, and Yu Junshi, a former military intelligence officer who served as a Bo family fixer. All were detained in spring 2012.

Several political analysts said Mr. Bo’s punishment could range from a prison term of 15 to 20 years to a suspended death sentence. Like those of his wife, Mr. Bo’s upcoming court sessions are expected to amount to little more than a show trial, in which a verdict has already been negotiated by Communist Party leaders. Mr. Bo would be the first Politburo member to be tried on criminal charges since 2008, when the former Shanghai party secretary Chen Liangyu was sentenced to 18 years in prison for corruption.

Bo Xilai Trial

The trial of Bo Xilai began in late July 2013 in Jinan, the capital of Shandong Province, southeast of Beijing. charged with taking bribes, embezzlement and abuse of power; the last charge is an accusation that he tried to obstruct an investigation into murder of Neil Heywood, presumably to protect his wife Gu Kalai. On the first day prosecutors ended months of suspense about details of the bribery charges against him, rolling out accusations that featured the French villa, a hot-air balloon project and a football club. Officials released information about the hearing through updates on a court microblog account. Transcripts released via the microblog showed Mr. Bo taking a defiant stand in the court and lashing out at the witnesses, in a style reminiscent of the showmanship that he displayed throughout his career. [Source: Associated Press , Edward Wong and Jonathan Ansfield, New York Times, August 23, 2013 ><]

Reporting on the activity on the second day, Edward Wong and Jonathan Ansfield wrote in the New York Times, “Prosecutors presented testimony that tied the murder in 2011 of a British businessman, Neil Heywood to compensation he was said to be demanding from the Bo family for his management of a villa on the French Riviera. Mr. Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, was convicted a year ago for the murder of Mr. Heywood and sentenced to a life term in prison. ><

“ And party authorities seemed to be making their case against Mr. Bo in the state media, not just in the court. After Mr. Bo’s bold defense on the first day of the trial, state news organizations issued a chorus of commentaries that said the evidence against him on the corruption and embezzlement charges was overwhelming. The commentaries lauded the trial as fair and open while ridiculing Mr. Bo’s efforts to refute the evidence and effectively prejudging him. “Confronted with the facts, Bo’s attitude was to flaunt his cunning and use a hundred kinds of denial,” said a commentary on the Web site of the Guangming Daily, a party newspaper. “The documents are there in black and white and the evidence is overwhelming. Bo Xilai’s self-defense collapsed instantly before the evidence, so that his sophistry was futile and laughable.” ><

“Though less voluminous overall than on the trial’s opening day, the transcripts released did include some instances in which Mr. Bo criticized the prosecution’s main witnesses, including his wife, Ms. Gu, who appeared in a video recording talking about the family’s finances. “How much of it is believable?” Mr. Bo said of Ms. Gu’s testimony. “She has become crazy, and she often tells lies. She was mentally unstable and under enormous pressure from the investigators to inform on me.” Although the official transcripts posted online faithfully reflected the bulk of the hearings, some colorful highlights were omitted, according to the person briefed by witnesses in the courtroom, who also has ties to justice officials. ><

“Outside of the courthouse, there was a clampdown in some corners of Jinan, in a shift from a more open atmosphere the day before. The local police tried to shoo away Chinese journalists from progressive state media outlets who were not specifically accredited to cover the trial, though foreign and some official media reporters appeared to work unimpeded. The police expanded their security cordon around the courthouse by an additional block and, by some eyewitness accounts, appeared to dispatch plainclothes officers to intimidate leftist supporters of Mr. Bo and assorted petitioners who had flocked to the courthouse and drawn the attention of international news media. The crowds of onlookers that hovered near the courthouse on the first day had thinned out considerably by the second day. ><

“Officials from the court, the police and state security held a meeting in night after the first day of the trial in Jinan, according to a person familiar with the situation, but determined that the situation was basically normal despite the uproar caused by Mr. Bo’s spirited defense. “Yesterday people around the country and even inside the courtroom were surprised by the degree of openness and Bo’s refutals of the charges, but the authorities did not seem to think that was so unexpected and considered the situation to be under control,” the person said. “The main thing was to modify the propaganda, mainly out of Beijing,” he added. ><

Conduct and Atmosphere at Bo Xilai’s Trial

Andrew Jacobs and Chris Buckley wrote in the New York Times, “The government orchestrated an unusually public and lengthy trial for Mr. Bo lasting five days, and a court microblog gave the public selective but plentiful and salacious details of the proceedings, which included allegations of adultery by both Mr. Bo and his wife, Gu Kailai. But the courtroom drama also let the public peer into a privileged world of dizzying wealth and nonchalant excess. Prosecutors described a casual rapport between Mr. Bo’s family and a businessman, Xu Ming, who paid for the travel and the extravagant purchases of Mr. Bo’s wife and younger son, including a $3.2 million villa in France, a $12,000 Segway and a flight aboard a private jet to Tanzania. [Source: Andrew Jacobs and Chris Buckley, New York Times, September 21, 2013 ***]

After the forth day of the trial, Gillian Wong of Associated Press wrote: “In a rare show of openness, the court has been publicizing details of the trial in a bid to lend credibility to what is widely seen as a political show trial. Bo, in return, has refrained from using the trial as a stage on which to denounce the administration and the opponents who purged him — which would likely be the leadership’s worst nightmare. “So far, the worst has been avoided,” said Ding Xueliang, a Chinese politics expert at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. “He’s been trying to play the game within the limitations set up by the Chinese leadership. He does not talk about politically sensitive things, even though everybody inside and outside China knows that he’s in trouble for politics.” <^>[Source: Gillian Wong, Associated Press, August 25, 2013 <^>]

“Still, the ousted leader mounted an unexpectedly spirited defense against charges of abuse of power and of netting $4.3 million through corruption, recanting earlier confessions and rarely expressing contrition as he sought to lay the blame for most of the misdeeds on his wife and others. He deftly cross-examined witnesses, and was selectively unable to recall key details when the questioning turned to him. <^>

“It appeared to be Bo’s last-ditch effort to repair the damage the scandal wrought on the clean, populist image he had so carefully cultivated for years — and might have caught by surprise prosecutors who were armed with the confessions and other evidence. “Today’s society faces acute contradictions, and people tend to involuntarily sympathize with those who are being attacked by the authorities, so he’s been able to portray himself as a victim, as a defeated hero,” said Zhang Lifan, a Chinese historian and political analyst. <^>

The proceedings are lasting longer than other recent high-profile trials, including the August 2012 conviction of Gu in the murder of a British businessman and the corruption conviction in June of a former railways minister. In those cases, the defendants pleaded guilty in daylong proceedings and scant details were released. Bo's trial had been expected to be similarly swift, but observers say he may have negotiated for his day in court. "It's most likely that Bo has made concessions to the disciplinary commission to win a chance to defend himself in the trial," said lawyer Zhang Sizhi, who has represented defendants in high-profile political cases, including Mao Zedong's wife in 1980. [Source: Gillian Wong, Associated Press, August Aug 23, 2013 ||||]

“The trial has focused attention on Bo's alleged economic and official misdeeds and avoided discussing the political battle he's widely perceived as having lost in his pursuit of a seat in China's apex of power ahead of last year's leadership transition. That political context means a guilty verdict is a foregone conclusion, analysts say, and giving Bo a chance to defend himself adds credibility to the process. ||||

Case Against Bo Xilai

Prosecutors claimed Bo abused his power as the Communist Party secretary of the southern megacity of Chongqing to block an investigation into his wife’s murder of a British businessman, as well as to hide his aide’s embarrassing flight to a U.S. consulate. Bo acknowledged that he made mistakes in the handling of the incidents that triggered the nation’s biggest political scandal in decades and brought shame on the Communist Party, but denied criminal misconduct. After testimony concluded the forth day, the court said all evidence in the trial had been presented. The trial was adjourned for a day and then closing arguments were be presented. [Source: Gillian Wong, Associated Press, August 25, 2013 <^>]

“The trial laid out how Bo Xilai’s wife Gu Kalai hatched a complicated plan with the help of two foreigners to hide their family’s ownership of the French villa, worth millions, and set up a chain of associates through which government funds could be embezzled discreetly. “It was the first time such a high-ranking family has put down the operation step by step,” Ding said. “This case has taught us so much about the dynamics and mechanisms in most Chinese corruption cases.” Testimony also revealed how one of the foreigners, Neil Heywood, demanded more money by threatening the safety of Bo’s son and to expose the family. Gu later killed him and received a suspended death sentence for the murder. <^>

Courtroom revelations painted a colorful picture of how Bo’s alleged misconduct enriched his family. He’s accused of providing political favors to a businessman, Xu Ming, in return for having him at his family’s beck and call. According to Bo’s wife, Xu gave the family expensive gifts that included a villa in France and international airfare to three continents. Bo is also accused of funneling $800,000 in government funds from a secret project. Besides the testimony, prosecutors have presented documents — receipts, copies of faxes, government approvals — and photos of the villa they say prove the businessman helped enrich the Bo family in return for political favors from Bo. [Source: Associated Press]

Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “The charges date back to the 1990s, when Bo served as mayor and later party secretary of Dalian, a port city of 6 million people. He cultivated a close relationship with a young businessman, Xu Ming, and together their fortunes soared. The owner of a small seafood refrigeration warehouse, Xu was awarded no-bid contracts for redevelopment projects that transformed Dalian into an urban showcase. [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, August 11, 2013]

Bribery and Embezzlement Charges Against Bo Xilai

The bribery and embezzlement charges against Bo amounted to 26.8 million yuan ($4.4 million, with 21.8 million yuan for bribery and 5.0 million yuan embezzlement. Bo was accused of accepting 20.7 million yuan in bribes from businessman Xu Ming, who testified for the prosecution. A city official testifying in court that Bo had embezzled 5 million yuan ($800,000) of government funds. Bo denied all these charges.

The court heard that the businessman Xu Ming paid $3.2 million for a villa in the French Riviera resort of Cannes after Gu said she wanted to buy it. The six-bedroom mansion with a pool, shaded terrace and colonnaded balconies sits in an exclusive neighbourhood overlooking the Mediterranean. It was allegedly funded by Xu through three different companies and managed by others, so that neither Bo nor his family appeared on records as owners of the property. The complex setup was "to avoid tax" and because "I didn't want to bring any bad influence on (Bo)", according to Gu's testimony. [Source: AFP, August 27, 2013 /*\]

Tang Xiaolin, another businessman, allegedly gave Bo 1.1 million yuan including the $80,000 seen by Gu after profiting from a land deal the politician helped facilitate. Gu would grab thick wads of yuan and US dollars from safes in the couple's homes during three trips back to China a year from England, where she lived with their only son Bo Guagua. Both bribery accusations stemmed from Bo's years overseeing Dalian city and its northeastern province Liaoning in the 1990s and early 2000s. He became national commerce minister in 2004 and Chongqing's leader in 2007.

Bo Xilai’s Response to the Charges and Efforts to Intimidate Him

Bo pleaded not guilty and contesting nearly every aspect of the prosecutors’ case. Partial transcripts of the five-day trial showed Mr Bo offered a spirited defence, dismissing many of the charges against him and claiming investigators had forced him to confess to a number of crimes "against his will".

Andrew Jacobs and Chris Buckley wrote in the New York Times, “During the trial, the prosecution said Mr. Bo had taken $4.4 million in bribes and embezzled money. Mr. Bo countered that he had been unaware of the gifts and payments. A more complete version of what Mr. Bo said during his trial revealed the lengths to which the government sought to stage-manage the narrative, especially comments he made that could raise questions about the government’s tactics or damage the party’s public standing. According to testimony from the court proceedings obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Bo said interrogators threatened his family during hundreds of hours of interrogations that caused him to faint more than dozen times. [Source: Andrew Jacobs and Chris Buckley, New York Times, September 21, 2013 ***]

“He also parried the abuse-of-power allegations against him by implicating the party agency he said had ordered him to cover up the emerging scandal over Mr. Heywood’s murder. He said the Central Politics and Law Commission told him to create a fake medical report attributing Mr. Wang’s decision to seek refuge inside the United States Consulate to a mental breakdown. At the time, the commission was led by Zhou Yongkang, a recently retired member of the Politburo Standing Committee who had been cultivating Mr. Bo as a potential successor. Around the time of Bo Xilai’s trial several senior figures who rose to power under Mr. Zhou’s tutelage have been detained by anticorruption investigators in what analysts say could be an effort to extinguish his lingering influence. ***

Bo Xila’s Wife's Testimony on Gifts from a Rich Friend Used Against Him

Prosecutors in the trial of Bo Xilai used testimony from his own wife to support bribery allegations against him, presenting videotaped testimony in which she says a businessman gave their family gifts including a French villa, airline tickets and a Segway scooter. Associated Press reported: “The statement from Gu was videotaped on 10 August. Before it was presented, there had been no publicly released word from her since she was convicted of murder in August of last year. In the video, she said a businessman accused of bribing Bo was a family friend who did many favours for them in exchange for her husband's help. The businessman, Xu Ming, is from the north-eastern city of Dalian, where Bo was once a top official. [Source: Associated Press, August 23, 2013 |:|]

“Gu said Xu gave the family a villa in Nice, France, often paid for their international flights and gave them gifts that included expensive seafood. She said her son received a Segway – an electric standup scooter – from Xu, and that Bo had been aware of the gifts. “Gu is seen seated at a table in a black-and-white striped shirt in the video, posted on the Jinan court's microblog. Speaking softly but apparently at ease,"Xu Ming is our old and longtime friend," Gu is seen telling her questioner. "We had a very good impression of him and believed he was honest and kind, so we trusted him a lot." [Source: Gillian Wong, Associated Press, August 23, 2013]

In defending himself, Bo has focused on recanting earlier confessions, challenging the relevance of evidence presented and stating he was ignorant of any favors that two businessmen were providing his wife and son. Bo sought to discredit his wife even before the video was shown in Jinan intermediate people's court. When Bo's trial began, he questioned his wife's credibility and mental health while fiercely denying that he took $3.5 million in bribes from two businessmen, one of whom he described as a "mad dog" trying to earn credit with authorities. |:|

Prosecutors said their witness testimonies were obtained legally and that Gu, in particular, was not affected by any medication that would impair her self-control. Prosecutors said Xu's company paid hundreds of thousands of dollars on travel expenses for Gu, their son, friends and relatives over the past decade. They included the son's vacations in countries such as France and Cuba, and a tour of Africa.

Wang Lijun’s Testimony Against Bo Xilai

The court also heard evidence about the events surrounding the attempted U.S. defection bid by Wang, the police chief, in February 2012, an incident that blew the scandal into the open. Wang said he fled to an American consulate fearing for his safety after he told Bo that the politician’s wife had murdered a British associate. [Source: Associated Press, August 23, 2013]

Wang Lijun testified about the violent confrontation with Bo, his subsequent removal as police chief and the disappearance of his subordinates who were investigating the murder spurred him to flee to American officials for safety. He said Bo did not slap him as much as punch him hard, causing his mouth to bleed. “It was dangerous at the time,” Wang told the court. “I was subject to violence, and my staff working closely with me and those working on the case disappeared.” Wang said he believed Bo had ordered an investigation into the police officers involved in the murder case to try to shield his wife — which Bo denied. [Source: Gillian Wong, Associated Press, August 25, 2013 <^>]

Bo Slams His Wife and Wang Lijun at His Trial

Bo described the testimony presented by his wife and the businessman Xu as "fabricated," and that of his former police chief Wang Lijun as "tittle-tattle." After Gu Kailai's testimony was presented, Gillian Wong of Associated Press wrote: “Bo retorted that she was "crazy" and a convicted killer, disputing the prosecution's contention that the gifts amounted to bribes — or that he even knew about them — and denying he had provided any political favors in exchange for them. "Bogu Kailai has changed, she's crazy and she's always making things up," Bo told the Jinan Intermediate People's Court on the second day of the trial, using the name with which authorities have referred to her. "Under conditions where her mental state is abnormal, the investigators put her under immense pressure to expose me," Bo said. [Source: Gillian Wong, Associated Press, August Aug 23, 2013]

After the close of the formal testimony, Gillian Wong of Associated Press wrote: “Bo Xilai assailed his wife and his former right-hand man, rejecting accusations of corruption and shielding a murderer. Bo told the Jinan Intermediate People’s Court on Sunday, the fourth day of the trial, that his former right-hand man, Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun, “constantly lied in his testimony.” He said Wang was “a person of very vile quality, who lied in court and muddied the waters.” [Source: Gillian Wong, Associated Press, August 25, 2013 <^>]

“Bo has thrown his wife, Gu Kailai, under the bus for much of the corruption charges and even some aspects of the abuse of power allegation. Calling her “crazy” after she testified against him, he said he could not be held responsible for crimes she committed without his knowledge. But Chinese officialdom is familiar with the strategy of spreading out an officeholder’s illicit assets and wealth among relatives and trusted friends, so Bo’s defense is unlikely to convince the public, Ding said. <^>

Bo told the court that he reacted angrily to Wang’s report, slapping him in the face and smashing a cup in fury because he initially thought Wang was framing his wife for the crime. “I thought he was being duplicitous. I have zero tolerance for duplicity,” Bo said. “I slapped him in the face.” <^>

Bo Xilai Receives a Life Sentence

In September 2013, almost a month after the trial ended, Bo Xilai was sentenced to life in prison after the Jinan intermediate people's court in the coastal Shandong province found him guilty of accepting $3.45 million in bribes, embezzling more than $800,00 and abusing his position by blocking an investigation into the murder. Bo's sentence was the harshest for a current or former member of China's politburo, since 1981, when Mao's widow Jiang Qing received a suspended death sentence for overseeing atrocities during the Cultural Revolution. Analysts said that while the Chinese government was keen to present the trial as evidence of the country's rule of law, authorities tightly controlled the proceedings and determined his verdict well in advance.

Andrew Jacobs and Chris Buckley wrote in the New York Times, “The sentence means Mr. Bo is unlikely to ever return to public life, unless there is an extraordinary reversal in his political fortunes. Given the Communist Party’s tight control of the judiciary, there was never much doubt that the Jinan Intermediate People’s Court in eastern China would find Mr. Bo guilty. [Source: Andrew Jacobs and Chris Buckley, New York Times, September 21, 2013 ***]

“Even before the verdict, commentaries in state-run news media declared that Mr. Bo’s guilt was clear. Yet until the end, Mr. Bo remained defiant, pleading not guilty and contesting nearly every aspect of the prosecutors’ case during his trial in August. The court gave Mr. Bo a small victory. Although it found him culpable for taking bribes worth $3.2 million, it said there was insufficient evidence concerning the air travel, which it said was worth about $218,000. ***

“Tong Zhiwei, a professor at East China University of Political Science and Law in Shanghai, said the life sentence was to be expected, given that Mr. Bo remained combative to the end and because he offered little of the contrition expected of fallen officials. “The fact that he didn’t plead guilty probably led to a heavier sentence” Mr. Tong said. “But on the other hand, it was also relatively lenient, because in the past, not pleading guilty to bribetaking on this scale has been very rare and could bring a death penalty.” He added that Mr. Bo’s sentence could later be reduced if he showed contrition and behaved well. “There’s that possibility, but he’ll probably have to serve at least a dozen or more years before that’s even possible,” he said. ***

“Like the trial, the hearing during which Mr. Bo was sentenced was closed to foreign journalists, and there was no video feed of the proceedings. According to the Jinan court’s microblog, those allowed inside the courtroom included three family members, two associates and 22 members of the news media. “Not only must justice be done; it must also be seen to be done,” the microblog feed said. Before reading out the sentence, the judge, Wang Xuguang, rejected Mr. Bo’s defense, including claims that his long hours of interrogation were abusive and thus illegal. He also brushed away the defendant’s assertion that Ms. Gu had psychological problems that rendered unreliable her testimony against her husband. ***

“The judge said the court had established that Mr. Bo’s conduct was the main reason the murder of Mr. Heywood “was not dealt with promptly and according to the law” and why Mr. Wang fled to the consulate in what he described as a treasonous act. The court said of these episodes: “They created particularly malign social consequences, and brought major harm to the interests of the state and the people.” ***

Before the trial it was said lawyers said that prosecutors have been trying to reach a deal in which Bo would receive a maximum 20-year sentence along with assurances that his son would not be harmed. Bo's wife received a suspended death sentence last year after appearing contrite and subdued in court, confessing and apologizing. [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, August 11, 2013]

Bo Xilai Smiles After His Sentencing and Writes a Letter to Clear His Name But His Appeal is Rejected

Cheng Li and Ryan McElveen wrote in the Los Angeles Times, As Bo Xilai “stood in court to hear the predictably punitive verdict, he grinned like a Cheshire cat. It was the knowing smile of someone who has endured a life of struggle and sat on both sides of China's capricious and politically calibrated scales of justice. That smile could haunt Xi and the Chinese leadership for years to come if they don't continue on the path of reform. Xi has spent his political honeymoon trying to gain traction for his domestic policy agenda. His court victory in the Bo case was a setback for China's "new left" (the current generation of Maoists, including many of Bo's followers). But liberal intellectuals are likely to remain cynical. Although many in China are greatly incensed by the widespread corruption among officials, they also want Xi to take the lead in implementing economic and constitutional reforms.[Source: Cheng Li and Ryan McElveen, Los Angeles Times, September 24, 2013]

After his trial and before his sentencing Bo Xilai wrote to his family from jail that was circulated among his close associates and leaked to the press. In Bo asserted his innocence and declared that his name would one day be cleared — much like that of his father,Bo Yibo, who was jailed at least twice by his enemies but emerged to become one of the Communist Party’s most revered luminaries. Details of the letter, first published by the South China Morning Post, were confirmed by two family associates. “I will follow his footsteps,” Mr. Bo wrote of his father’s rehabilitation. “I will wait quietly in the prison.” [Source: New York Times]

Tom Phillips wrote in The Telegraph, “In a letter to supporters that was reportedly penned inside a Chinese prison, Bo likened himself to his father, the revolutionary hero Bo Yibo, who was persecuted and publicly humiliated by Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. Mr Bo also said he was ready to face the "miseries" of imprisonment, according to extracts of the letter published by Hong Kong's South China Morning Post. "Father and mother have passed away, but their teachings continue to serve me well," Bo Xilai wrote in his pre-verdict letter. "I would not disgrace their glorious past." ENDS [Source: Tom Phillips, The Telegraph, September 19, 2013]

Bo Xilai filed an appeal, claiming the verdict was formality but the appeal was rejected. Jonathan Kaiman wrote in The Guardian, “A court in eastern China has rejected an appeal by the ousted Chinese leader Bo Xilai and upheld his life sentence for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power. After a brief session, the Shandong high people's court upheld the lower court's decision, China's state newswire Xinhua reported via its official microblog. It did not provide further details. Bo will not have another chance to appeal. Bo Zhiyue, an expert on Chinese politics at the National University of Singapore, called the rejected appeal unsurprising. "Politically I think [Bo] is finished," he said. "But Chinese politics are not predictable. You never know – something may happen down the road." [Source: Jonathan Kaiman, The Guardian, October 25, 2013]

Bo is imprisoned at the Qincheng penitentiary, just north of Beijing, where disgraced members of the elite are incarcerated. Senior party leaders had pushed for Bo to get a long sentence, fearing he could stage a political comeback one day if not dealt with harshly. A Communist Party document circulated in November 2013 urged officials to toe the line and learn from Bo's mistakes, sources said. They were told to fully conform with the party's decision to expel and prosecute Bo. [Source: Reuters]

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

Last updated December 2013

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