Fallen Chongqing Party chief Bo Xilai was formally charged on Thursday, Xinhua reports:
The indictment paper was delivered to the Jinan City Intermediate People’s Court on Thursday.
Bo, as a civil servant, took the advantage of his position to seek profits for others and accepted an “extremely large amount” of money and properties, said the indictment paper.
He also embezzled a huge amount of public money and abused his power, seriously harming the interests of the state and people, the document said. [Source]
Bo’s illicit gains are said to have amounted to some 25 million yuan ($4 million): a considerable sum, but far smaller than the 64.6 million yuan former railways minister Liu Zhijun was convicted of taking, or the nearly one billion yuan he is suspected of having actually accumulated. The charges closely reflect the stated grounds for Bo’s expulsion from the Party last September: “improper sexual relations with a number of women” are notably absent, as a breach of Party rules but not of Chinese law. The charges are widely felt to be narrower than might have been the case, however. From The Telegraph’s Tom Phillips (writing after the rumored charges had leaked, but before they were officially announced):
Kerry Brown, the executive director of the China Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, said the apparent nature of the charges against Mr Bo suggested the government was keen to avoid exposing its own shortcomings.
“They don’t want to come out with something too eye-watering because then that raises all sorts of questions about how on earth he was able to get in a position to accrue this vast amount of wealth and that raises all sorts of questions about the system itself,” he said. “So something that is big enough to be damaging but not so staggering that it makes you wonder about the whole system is tactically what they need to pitch it at. [Source]
Following the actual indictment, Brown told the Telegraph to expect a “very procedural, boringly administrative” trial followed by “some reasonably comfortable, utterly irrelevant future under house arrest. That’s it. His time is over.”
The indictment came hot on the heels of a report in the South China Morning Post on Wednesday that Bo’s trial was finally imminent. Similar reports citing a range of different sources have since come from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Telegraph, Reuters, the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and others, pointing to start dates as soon as this week and as late as next year, with general agreement on August or possibly September. The law requires ten days between indictment and trial.
Bo’s wife Gu Kailai and former police lieutenant Wang Lijun are among those already tried in the wake of Bo’s downfall. Gu received a suspended death sentence for the murder of Briton Neil Heywood, while Wang was sentenced to 15 years for attempted defection, bribery and his own part in Heywood’s death. Prior to the announcement of charges, law professor Jerome Cohen wrote at South China Morning Post on Thursday about the tangled tale to date, and the minefield of issues likely involved in the Party’s internal deliberations over the case:
Party leaders, whatever their views on constitutionalism and judicial independence, might easily disagree about the detailed issues that prosecution involves. Should Bo only be charged with bribery, abuse of power and embezzlement, as the “internal report” indicates? What kind of “public” trial should he have? Should it be extensive and televised like that of the Gang of Four, or truncated and regimented like that of Gu Kailai? Can Bo, formerly a feisty person, be guaranteed to follow a script without displaying the impact of confinement’s coercion? How circumscribed should defence lawyers be? What punishment should be imposed?
Have party leaders already agreed? If not, when this summer they convene their traditional beach conclave at Beidaihe, can Xi Jinping forge a consensus? Does he need to put Bo’s trial behind him before this autumn’s direction-setting third plenary session of the party central committee? What will Bo’s case tell us about broader policies? One thing is certain – Xi has not forgotten Bo. [Source]