Bo Appeal Denied as China Court Upholds Life Sentence

Bo Xilai’s appeal of his life sentence for graft and abuse of power was rejected by a Chinese court, which upheld the harshest sentence in three decades for a former member of the Communist Party’s Politburo.

The Shandong High People’s Court upheld the original verdict, affirming a lower court’s decision on Sept. 22 to send Bo, 64, to prison for the rest of his life, according to a statement posted on its website. Bo’s appeal didn’t have a “factual or legal basis,” and the ruling was final, Hou Jianjun, a spokesman for the court, told reporters. Four of Bo’s family members attended the proceeding, he said.

Bo, a former Commerce Minister whose last post was the party’s top official in the southwestern city of Chongqing, was found guilty last month of taking 20.4 million yuan ($3.4 million) in bribes, embezzling 5 million yuan and abusing power.

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 elite Politburo Standing Committee before his ouster. The sentence fits a broader campaign against corruption that President Xi Jinping has said poses a threat to party rule.

‘Dead and Buried’

“The appeal is going through the motions so that they can say they’ve observed the rights,” Kerry Brown, executive director of the University of Sydney’s China Studies Centre, told Bloomberg Television before the decision. “So I think he’s dead and buried, really, in terms of his political life.”

As the son of former Vice Premier Bo Yibo, one of the “eight immortals” of the Communist Party, Bo belongs to the princeling class of second-generation officials whose families are tied together through decades of alliances and patronage. Bo gained popularity for cracking down on organized crime in Chongqing and his efforts to improve urban life.

His 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 leading to the attempted defection to the U.S. of Chongqing’s police chief in February 2012, Bo’s removal from his post in the city the following month and his suspension from the ruling Politburo that April.

His life term is the harshest penalty meted out to a former or sitting member of the Politburo since Chairman Mao Zedong’s widow was handed a death sentence in 1981, later commuted to life in prison, for her actions during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.

Bo’s father was one of the Communist revolutionaries who together with Mao helped found the People’s Republic of China in 1949. The elder Bo died in 2007, the year his son was elevated to the Politburo.

— With assistance by Michael Forsythe

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