China's Bo Xilai to go on trial Thursday

Disgraced politician Bo Xilai, whose downfall heralded China's biggest political scandal for decades, will stand trial from Thursday for bribery, graft and abuse of power, it was announced Sunday.

  • Published: 18/08/2013 at 03:49 PM
  • Newspaper section: news

In a file photo taken on March 9, 2012, Bo Xilai leaves after the third plenary session of the National People's Congress's (NPC) annual session at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Bo will stand trial from Thursday, state media said on Sunday.

Bo, once one of the country's most powerful leaders, will go on trial at Jinan Intermediate People's Court in the eastern province of Shandong, Xinhua news agency said.

"The open trial will start at 8:30 am (0030 GMT) on August 22 at its 5th courtroom," Xinhua said.

The scandal surrounding Bo -- who ran the western megacity of Chongqing -- emerged last year, ahead of a once-a-decade leadership transition in which Bo had been considered a candidate for the Politburo Standing Committee -- China's most powerful body.

But his glittering career came crashing down amid allegations that his wife -- later convicted of murder -- was involved in the death of a British businessman and that he had sought to block the police investigation.

Bo was indicted last month on the charges.

Determining how to handle Bo's trial would require tough negotiations among the political elite, which can effectively dictate judicial proceedings, analysts say.

President Xi Jinping took office in March vowing to root out corrupt officials ranging from high-ranking "tigers" to low-level "flies", and warning that the problem could destroy the ruling Communist Party.

The respected current affairs magazine Caijing last month said the 25-million-yuan ($4.1 million) corruption charges against Bo stem from his time running the smaller city of Dalian in the 1990s, not Chongqing. It did not cite a source.

Analysts say that given the length of Bo's career and the high positions he reached, it seemed implausible corruption would only affect Bo's earlier and less-powerful posts.

From Dalian -- a city of seven million people -- Bo went on to run the national ministry of commerce and then Chongqing metropolis with a population of 30 million.

The abuse of power allegation relates to his attempt last year to stop his Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun investigating the role of Bo's wife Gu Kailai in the death of British businessman Neil Heywood, Caijing said.

Fearing retribution from his boss, Wang fled to a US consulate in the city of Chengdu in February 2012, disclosing the tangled events that eventually led to Bo's spectacular downfall.

Bo was detained a month later and Gu was eventually given a suspended death sentence for murder.

Separately, Xinhua said Sunday that China's former top economic policymaker Liu Tienan has been placed under investigation for suspected bribe-taking.

Liu, once the deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission, was expelled earlier this month by the communist party.

"The Supreme People's Procuratorate has decided to open an investigation into the case of Liu," Xinhua said.

It is not thought the Bo and Liu cases are related.

On August 8 Xinhua, citing the party's anti-corruption watchdog, said Liu "took advantage of his position to seek profits for others" and was "morally degenerate".

"Both Liu and his family accepted huge amounts of bribes," it added.

Liu lost both his party and government posts.

Expulsion from the party is normally a precursor to criminal prosecution for Chinese officials and on Sunday the official news agency said an investigation into Liu was "under way".

Several high-ranking officials have been ensnared in the official crackdown on craft within the party.

In early July the former railways minister Liu Zhijun was given a suspended death sentence for huge bribery.

A series of low-level officials have also come under investigation, often after ordinary Chinese exposed their often-salacious alleged scandals online.

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Writer: AFP
Position: News agency

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