China charges Bo Xilai with corruption, abuse of power

Agence France-Presse
(UPDATE) State media reports had said he would 'face justice' for abuse of power, taking bribes and improper sexual relations

DISGRACED. This photo taken on March 14, 2012, shows Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai during the closing ceremony of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. AFP Photo/Mark Ralston

BEIJING, China (2nd UPDATE) — China’s once high-flying communist politician Bo Xilai has been indicted for bribery and abuse of power, state media said Thursday, July 25, following a scandal that exposed deep divisions at the highest levels of government.

The former party chief of the southwestern city of Chongqing has not been seen in public for more than a year since the controversy surrounding him was exposed, triggering one of China’s biggest political scandals in decades.

“The indictment paper was delivered” to a court in Jinan in the eastern province of Shandong, Xinhua said, citing prosecutors in the city.

Bo “took the advantage of his position to seek profits for others and accepted an ‘extremely large amount’ of money and properties,” it said, quoting the indictment.

State media reports had said he would “face justice” for abuse of power, taking bribes and improper sexual relations following his wife Gu Kailai’s conviction for murdering a British business associate.

A source with direct knowledge of the case, who requested anonymity, said the trial might begin in mid-August.

News of the proceedings comes at a time when the party’s new leadership is trying to show it is cracking down on corruption and government waste.

The downfall of Bo, once one of 25 members of the Politburo of China’s ruling Communist Party, exposed corruption allegations and deep divisions at the highest levels of government.

The scandal emerged last year ahead of a once-a-decade leadership transition, in which Bo had been considered a candidate for the Politburo Standing Committee, which currently has seven members and is China’s most powerful body.

His downfall was triggered after his police chief and right-hand man Wang Lijun fled to a US consulate in Chengdu city near Chongqing, reportedly seeking asylum. Bo was detained a month later.

He had cultivated an unusually populist public image and led a high profile anti-mafia campaign, which resulted in scores of arrests but led to allegations of torture against suspects.

Bo also revived some elements of 1960s Communist Party culture as part of a “Sing Red” campaign involving massive rallies, which drew comparisons with China’s tumultuous Cultural Revolution period.

His attention-drawing approach was controversial among the top communist leadership, but the decision to oust him would have required tough backroom negotiations among the country’s top leaders ahead of the power handover, analysts have said.

Bo’s wife was given a suspended death sentence last August for fatally poisoning businessman and family friend Neil Heywood. The penalty is normally commuted to a life sentence in China.

Wang was sentenced to 15 years in prison in September for defection and other crimes.

Official media said last year Bo had “borne major responsibility” for the murder of Heywood and had taken “massive” bribes and had indulged in inappropriate sexual relations with “multiple women”.

Bo has appointed two lawyers for the trial, both of whom are members of a law firm which has close ties to the ruling party.

His fate has generated widespread speculation, and rumors in January that his trial would open in the southwestern city of Guiyang sent packs of reporters to what turned out to be a quiet courthouse.

The last former Politburo member to be tried for corruption, Chen Liangyu, received an 18-year prison term in 2008. –

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