China’s Bo Xilai allowed to appeal against life in jail


Former China's Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai reacts as he attends the opening ceremony of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing March 3, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Lee

Former China’s Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai reacts as he attends the opening ceremony of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing March 3, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Lee

A court in eastern China on Wednesday allowed ousted former senior politician Bo Xilai to appeal against a guilty verdict on charges of corruption and abuse of power handed out last month which earned him a life sentence.

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.

In a brief statement posted on its website, the high court in the eastern province of Shandong, where Bo was first tried, said it had allowed him to appeal. It gave no other details, and did not say when the appeal would be heard.

While Bo has the right to appeal, his sentence and the verdict are unlikely to be overturned as the courts are controlled by the ruling Communist Party which long ago pronounced him guilty.

A source with direct knowledge of the case said Bo had appealed “on the day the sentence was announced”.

“At that time he appealed verbally, and later submitted it in writing,” the source told Reuters, asking not to be named because of the political sensitivity of the case.

“He told the court of first instance that he would appeal and that is equivalent to the court receiving (the application). He also paid the appeal fee. It is not clear when the appeals court will start the review. It should be rather soon, perhaps this Friday or next week,” the source said.

Bo, 64, who was Communist Party chief of the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing, mounted an unexpectedly fiery defense during his trial, denouncing testimony against him by his wife as the ravings of a mad woman hoping to have her own sentence reduced.

He repeatedly said that he was not guilty of any of the charges, though he admitted making some bad decisions and shaming his country by his handling of former Chongqing police chief, Wang Lijun, who first told Bo that Gu had probably murdered Heywood.

Under Chinese rules, the appeal should be heard within two months.

Source: “China’s Bo Xilai allowed to appeal against life in jail”

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China’s fallen former high-flyer Bo to stand trial Thursday


China's former Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai looks on during a meeting at the annual session of China's parliament, the National People's Congress, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, March 6, 2010. Credit: Reuters/Jason Lee

China’s former Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai looks on during a meeting at the annual session of China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, March 6, 2010. Credit: Reuters/Jason Lee

The trial of disgraced senior Chinese politician Bo Xilai will start on Thursday, when he will face charges of bribery, corruption and abuse of power in China’s most divisive and dramatic case in decades.

The long-awaited trial of Bo, 64, a “princeling” son of a late vice premier who is still popular with conservatives and the disaffected, will be the country’s highest-profile hearing since the 1976 downfall of Mao Zedong’s widow, Jiang Qing, and her Gang of Four at the end of the Cultural Revolution.

Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, and his estranged police chief, Wang Lijun, have both been jailed over the scandal stemming from the November 2011 murder of British businessman Neil Heywood in the southwestern city of Chongqing, where Bo was Communist Party boss.

Bo’s trial will open at the Intermediate People’s Court in Jinan, capital of the eastern coastal province of Shandong, at 8:30 a.m. (0030 GMT) on Thursday, Xinhua said in a terse report on Sunday. It gave no further details.

A court spokeswoman confirmed the report, but would not say how long the trial would last, though it could be just a day.

Bo’s main lawyer, Li Guifang, did not answer telephone calls seeking comment.

It is almost certain Bo will be convicted as China’s prosecutors and judges are controlled by the ruling Communist Party, and he could theoretically be sentenced to death.

“I hope he does not get the death penalty, as this is a method of punishment we should be using less off. But I would expect a strong punishment,” said Li Zhuang, a lawyer and prominent opponent of Bo during his time as Chongqing party boss.

The Wall Street Journal said that Bo’s wife would be the key witness for the prosecution.

But a source familiar with the situation, who declined to be identified citing the sensitivity of the matter, said Gu would not testify.

It is not clear if she has provided any evidence already to the prosecution.

How Bo’s case is handled will be a test of newly installed President Xi Jinping’s steel in the battle against deeply ingrained corruption and also show how he has been able to stamp his authority on the party, which he leads.

Xi has vowed to fight both “tigers” and “flies” – in other words people at every level of the party – as he combats graft so serious that he has warned it threatens the party’s very survival.

However, his campaign has so far netted precious few “tigers”, and in any case the Bo scandal pre-dates Xi’s time as national leader.

Bo, a former commerce minister, used his post as party boss of Chongqing to cast the sprawling, haze-covered municipality into a showcase for his mix of populist policies and bold spending plans that won support from leftists yearning for a charismatic leader.

Bo’s former police chief, Wang, had spearheaded a controversial drive against organized crime, a prominent plank in Bo’s barely concealed campaign to join the top ranks of the party.

Censors appeared to relax the normal tight controls on discussing the trial on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo microblogging service, though opinions were split, reflecting the deep divisions the case has exposed.

“I don’t really believe anything about this case, and I don’t know if we’ll ever get to the bottom of it,” wrote one user.

“He had ruthless ambition like Hitler and had a talent for co-opting public opinion,” wrote another.

The trial will almost certainly be conducted behind closed doors, which will play into the suspicions of many in China that Bo is simply a victim of elite infighting.

Bao Tong, the most senior government official jailed over the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests, urged the government to grant Bo an open and fair trial, saying it was necessary to prevent the assumption that his case is “a product of a political struggle”.

Bao also criticized the authorities for detaining a supporter of Bo and preventing a family-appointed lawyer from representing Bo.

“This means that justice is not impartial, justice is only playacting,” Bao told Reuters earlier this month. “Now the program has been prepared, the director is there, the actors have rehearsed. We’re just waiting for the performance.”

Source: Reuters “China’s fallen former high-flyer Bo to stand trial Thursday”


China: 21 Chongqing officials sentenced over sex scandal


Zhu Ruifeng. PHoto Simong Song

Zhu Ruifeng. PHoto Simong Song

The Chongqing Communist Party’s disciplinary commission has endorsed penalties for dozens of city officials linked to a sex and corruption scandal.

Xinhua reported yesterday that 21 officials, including Lei Zhengfu, former party chief of Beibei district, have been sentenced.

Lei, filmed having sex with a woman hired by developers seeking favours in bids for construction projects, will be dismissed from the party.

The sex scandal erupted in November when whistle-blower Zhu Ruifeng uploaded screenshots from video footage showing Lei, 57, having sex with an 18-year-old woman.

Lei was fired within days of the footage going viral online, and at least 10 more government officials and executives from state-owned companies have been dismissed for appearing in other secretly filmed sex videos.

“The long-awaited decision shows the government in Chongqing was forced to make the decision by the weight of public opinion,” Zhu said. “The government was papering over the problems and did not want to release information immediately and transparently.”

Xinhua said the case of another official implicated in the sex tape scandal, Nanan district party secretary Xia Zeliang, would be handled separately.

Xia allegedly provided the poison that Gu Kailai , the wife of former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai , used to murder British businessman Neil Heywood in November 2011 and offered her other assistance. Bo allegedly helped cover up the sex scandal.

Xinhua said another district-level official, Han Shuming, was being investigated for suspected economic crimes.

A further 18 unnamed officials would receive different party punishments, including serious warnings.

Mainland media reported on Friday that the woman who appeared in Lei’s sex tape, Zhao Hongxia , had been arrested and charged with extortion.

The newly installed leadership has repeatedly pledged to tackle corruption. But whistle-blower Zhu said it was still difficult for the public to supervise officials.

A television show about his work that was supposed to air in Shanghai recently was pulled after national security authorities issued a gag order.


Forensic expert rejects cyanide explanation for Heywood’s death


SCMP reports: “A high-profile forensic expert with the mainland’s top prosecutorial body has publicly challenged the official account of the cause of death of British businessman Neil Heywood, whose murder triggered the country’s biggest political scandal in two decades.

“Wang Xuemei, a forensic medical expert with the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, wrote on her blog on Wednesday that she questioned whether Heywood had been poisoned by cyanide, as announced after the trial of Gu Kailai, who was given a suspended death sentence in August for his murder. Gu is the wife of disgraced former Chongqing Communist Party boss Bo Xilai .”

“‘I feel very pained, upset and scared that our court believed the theory [Heywood] was poisoned with cyanide,’ she wrote, arguing that if Heywood had indeed been killed by cyanide, the forensic experts sent to the scene would have immediately noticed obvious symptoms such as discolouration of the corpse or an unusual bright red colour of heart blood samples, making it impossible for four subordinates of Wang Lijun, Chongqing’s then police chief, to disguise it as death caused by excessive drinking.”

For details of SCMP report, please visit its website at:

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1048956/analysts-say-cross-strait-ties-benefiting-dispute-japan


Bo Xilai Doomed for His Role in Wang Lijun’s and Gu Kailai’s Cases


At 8.56pm Xinhua’s english.news.cn gave a detailed account of Wang Lijun’s case, which revealed Bo Xilai’s role in Gu Kailai and Wang Lijun’s cases

Xinhua says, “Relevant testimonies from witnesses showed that on Jan. 28, Wang Lijun reported to the then leading official of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Chongqing Committee that Bogu Kailai was highly suspected in the Nov. 15, 2011 Case. On the morning of Jan. 29, Wang Lijun was angrily rebuked and slapped in the face by the official.”

The official who slapped Wang was obviously Bo Xilai who was then leading official of the Chongqing Party Committee.

In addition Xinhua says, “On Feb. 2, 2012, Wang Lijun’s work division as Chongqing’s vice mayor was adjusted and he no longer served concurrently as chief of the municipality’s Public Security Bureau.

“Moreover, in early February, three staff members working closely with Wang were put under illegal investigation. Wang felt he was in danger, giving rise to his idea to defect.”

Obviously Wang’s removal from chief of Chongqing Security Bureau and the illegal investigation of Wang’s close staff members were done at Bo Xilai’s instructions.

Even if Bo Xilai cannot be prosecuted for that, there are adequate grounds for disciplinary sanction within the Party.

Bo’s even greater crime was probably that he told Wang to spy on top Party leaders.

Xinhua says, “According to the indictment, Wang, then chief of Chongqing’s Public Security Bureau, violated the country’s laws and regulations by using technical reconnaissance measures on a number of people since 2010, either without the approval of authorities or by forging approval documents.”

We don’t know whom Wang spied “by using technical reconnaissance measures” as the hearing on that part of Wang’s case was carried out in secret, but the probability is quite great that Wang spied on top Party leaders and Bo gave Wang instructions to do so though there has not been adequate evidence to prosecute Bo.

Obviously, Bo will be punished for that within the Party.

We can be certain that if no powerful elder shields Bo, Bo is politically doomed.


Bo Xilai Involved in Wang Lijun’s Case but Cannont Be Prosecuted


Hearing of the case of Bo Xilai’s close assistant Wang Lijun was over today, but Bo Xilai was not mentioned either by the court or the media.

However, as Wang’s crime of taking technical spying measures on various people without approval or through faked formalities of approval may refer to what was rumored about his spying on Hu Jintao and other leaders. he may have done so due to instruction from Bo Xilai. However, as the hearing about that crime was carried out in secret, we do not know whether Wang indeed spied on top leaders and whether Bo was involved. If Bo was involved, Bo will certainly be prosecuted for that.

It seems that Bo was clever enough not to leave any documentary evidence on that; therefore, if Bo gave instruction on the spying orally without any other person present, there will not be enough evidence to accuse Bo. Otherwise Bo would have been deprived of his NPC membership in the recent meeting of NPC Standing Committee.

Hong Kong papers reports on the trial:

According to Ming Pao and Singtao Daily, the two half-day hearings of Wang Lijun’s case of bending the law in some people’s favor, attempting defect, abusing power and taking bribes finished today.

Ming Pao says: The prosecutor accused Wang of bending the law in Gu Kailai’s favor in knowingly covering up Gu Kailai’s crime of murder, betraying his country by fleeing to the consulate of a foreign country, taking technical spying measures on various people without approval or through faked formalities of approval and taking bribes worth 3.05 million yuan of Renminbi.

However, the prosecutor said that there were grounds for mitigation: First, he later asked Chongqing Public Security Bureau to reopen the case of Gu Kailai’s murder of Neil Heywood, supplied evidence for investigation and preserved physical evidence. He has thus played an important role in helping the public security organ crack the case. Second, he surrendered himself to the authority.

Xinhua, the official news agency, says that the court has served a copy of the prosecution to Wang Lijun, the defendant, informed him of his litigation rights and obligations and notified his lawyer to interview the defendant and review all the files of the case to safeguard Wang’s litigation rights.

As Wang’s crimes of attempting defect and abusing power of office involved state secret, the court did not conduct an open hearing yesterday on the said crimes, but the hearing today on his crimes of taking bribes and bending the law in some people’s favor was conducted in the open.

At the court, the procuratorate produced relevant evidence. Cross-examinations were carried out by Wang and his lawyers. Both parties fully expressed their opinions. Wang’s relatives, reporters from media, NPC deputies, CPPCC members and people from various circles were present during the open hearing.

Singtao Daily says: Yang Yuquan, spokesman of Chengdu Intermediate People’s Court said: Wang pleaded guilty of all counts of his crimes and he was in good health now.

Yang pointed out that Wang’s crime of bending the law in Gu Kailai’s favor is especially serious while that of defect is also serious and that Wang should also be liable for his other crimes.

Yang also mentioned the grounds for mitigation provided by the procuratorate.

He said that the hearing was over and verdict would be given at the time decided by the court.


SCMP: Media Play Down Gu’s Sentence for Poisoning


SCMP says: “The mainland media took a low-key approach in their reports on Monday’s sentencing of Gu Kailai, the wife of Chongqing’s former party chief Bo Xilai.

 

“It was an obvious attempt to swiftly move on from the nation’s biggest political scandal in decades ahead of the Communist Party’s 10-yearly congress to reshuffle its top leadership.

 

“On state-run Chongqing Satellite Television’s 6.30pm news programme, which reflects government positions, an anchorwoman read a 20-second story on Gu’s murder trial.

 

“She said Gu had received a suspended death sentence for murdering British businessman Neil Heywood, but it did not include pictures or video.”

 

“The Chongqing Evening News ran a small headline on Gu’s sentencing at the bottom of its front page, below stories about the industrialisation conference and a food-safety programme involving local restaurants.

 

“Other newspapers, such as the Chongqing Economic Times and the Chongqing Morning Post, also had small headlines on their front pages referring to Xinhua’s report.”

via SCMP.com – Media play down Gu’s sentence for poisoning.