A CHINESE court sentenced ousted senior politician Bo Xilai to life in jail yesterday after finding him guilty of corruption and abuse of power, a tough term that gives him little chance of staging a political comeback.
Bo was a rising star in China’s leadership circles and cultivated a loyal following through his charisma and populist, quasi-Maoist policies, especially among those left out in the cold by China’s anything-for-growth economic policies.
But his career was stopped short last year by a murder scandal in which his wife, Gu Kailai, was convicted of poisoning a British businessman, Neil Heywood, who had been a family friend.
While Bo has the right to appeal within 10 days from today, the sentence effectively puts an end to his political ambitions and the glamorous lifestyle he enjoyed as a member of China’s ruling elite.
The court in the eastern city of Jinan, where Bo was tried, ordered that all his personal assets be seized, and deprived him of his political rights for life, according to a transcript released by the court’s official microblog.
“Bo Xilai was a servant of the state, he abused his power, causing huge damage to the country and its people … The circumstances were especially serious,” the court said in its judgement.
State media said he would probably appeal, in which case the supreme court in Shandong province, where Jinan is located, would have to hear the case within two months. As all courts are party controlled, they are unlikely to overturn the verdict.
While Bo could have been given the death penalty, many observers had felt this was unlikely as the party would not have wanted to make a martyr of him.
Bo did himself few favours with his feisty defence at his five-day trial, said Zhang Ming, a professor at Renmin University in Beijing. “My predication was for shorter,” he said. “His denial of guilt led to a longer sentence.”