A Chinese court on Oct. 25 will announce its decision on former Politburo member Bo Xilai’s appeal of his life sentence for corruption, abuse of power and bribery, the court said on its website yesterday.
Bo, 64, was found guilty last month of taking 20.4 million yuan ($3.35 million) in bribes, embezzling 5 million yuan and abusing his power. He received a life term in prison, the harshest sentence meted out to a former or sitting member of the elite Communist Party Politburo in three decades.
Bo proclaimed his innocence at the trial and called the bribery charges something “even the lousiest TV drama scriptwriter wouldn’t create.” He then appealed the sentence to the Shandong High People’s Court, which said in a statement it will announce its decision at 10 a.m. on Oct. 25.
His downfall came as the party was in the midst of a once-a-decade leadership transition, and he was mentioned as a possible candidate for the Politburo Standing Committee before his ouster. The sentence fits a broader campaign against the corruption that President Xi Jinping has said poses a threat to party rule.
Bo’s sentencing came more than a year after his wife, Gu Kailai, was convicted of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood. Heywood’s death in November 2011 set off a chain of events that culminated in the removal of Bo in March 2012 from his job as the top official in the city of Chongqing, following the attempted defection to the U.S. of his police chief.
On the day of Bo’s sentencing on Sept. 22, scholars who study Chinese politics, including Dali Yang of the University of Chicago and Joseph Cheng of the City University of Hong Kong, said an appeal would probably result in little or no change to the verdict.
Since Bo’s trial in August, Xi’s anti-graft campaign has focused on people tied to Zhou Yongkang, until last year head of China’s security services. Zhou praised Bo’s achievements in Chongqing just days before Bo was ousted from the job.
Xi set up a special unit for a probe into Zhou, the South China Morning Post reported yesterday, citing three people it didn’t identify. The move reflects Xi’s personal interest in the case and concerns that the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection doesn’t have the proper experience handling criminal investigations, according to the report.
A formal criminal probe of Zhou would be the first targeting a current or retired member of the Politburo Standing Committee since the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.