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China's most significant political development in the 2000s and 2010s in many ways was scandal that broke in early 2012, involving Bo Xilai, the ambitious and charismatic Chongqing party boss who made a name for himself as an anticorruption and crime fighter and somehow combined neo-Maoist populism with business-friendly policies. He was removed as Chongqing’s party leader after his deputy fled to the U.S. consulate in February, 2012. The incident was followed by accusations of corruption and abuse of power involving Bo and his family. Bo, his wife Gu Kailai, and his deputy Wang Lijun,were subsequently convicted in 2012 and 2013 of various charges, including murder by poisoning of Neil Heywood, a British businessman and longtime friend of the Bo family.. [Source: Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., Columbia University Press]

In March and April 2012, Bo Xilai was sacked from his party politburo and central committee posts and ousted from the Chinese Communist Party. 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. A month later, 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; Ben Blanchard and Chris Buckley, Reuters, March 15, 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,"

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.

Bo Xilai Brought down by His Right Hand Man Wang Lijun?

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.”

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.

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. 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. [Source: Tania Branigan, The Guardian, February 3, 2012]

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. Then suddenly 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 and education in place of his public security post, the South China Morning Post reported. 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.

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.

“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.

“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.”

“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.

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.

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.

Information That Came Out in 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Afterwards Wang Lijun was paralyzed by mysterious. 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]

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.

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 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, and, 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.

Ferrari Crash and Chinese-Style Tabloid Politics During 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. 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. Afiery 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] [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.

Some suggested the driver of the Ferrari was Bo Guagua, Bo Xilai’s son. Bo Guagua wrote in the Harvard Crimson:“ I have never driven a Ferrari. I have also not been to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing since 1998 (when I obtained a previous U.S. Visa), nor have I ever been to the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence in China. Even my student Visas were issued by the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu, which is closer to my home of five years. [Source: The Crimson, April 24, 2012]

Bo Xilai's Trial

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. 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. [Source: Edward Wong and Jonathan Ansfield, New York Times, July 24, 2013]

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]

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. ***

Testimony by Bo Xila’s Wife's and Wang Lijun 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.

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 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]

Political Attacks Against Bo Xilai and His Allies

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.”

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.

“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.

The Financial Times and Washington Post 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]

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