A court in the eastern city of Jinan has convicted Bo Xilai, once a high-ranking and rising Chinese Communist Party leader, of bribery, abuse of power and embezzlement. Roughly one month after the conclusion of his trial in late August, Bo was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.
The verdict of China’s most notorious trial in years was officially announced on the Jinan Intermediate People’s Court’s social media page on Sunday morning local time. The guilty verdict was expected by most following the case, but the sentence follows the demands of the prosecution, which called for a harsh punishment to deter any chance of a political comeback for Bo. The life sentence could be commuted to a lesser term depending on good behavior and other factors.
According to the court’s microblog post, Bo will have 10 days from Monday to appeal the ruling. While the success rate of such appeals is low, especially in such sensitive and salacious cases involving high-profile figures, according to the Wall Street Journal, a source close to the family said before the verdict’s announcement that Bo would appeal.
Ahead of the trial, Chinese were speculating at the kind of sentence Bo would receive, with some even guessing at 20 years. “Before the trial, I expected a 15 to 20-year sentence, but it’s now harder to predict after such an open trial for a case with such a heavy political tone,” He Weifang, a Peking University legal expert, said in a USA Today report.
At the trial's conclusion, many were surprised by Bo’s steadfast claims of innocence, even retracting an earlier confession of admission. Some say his defiance and lack of remorse may have gotten him the life sentence. "He paid a price for retracting his confession during his trial," said Zhang Lifan, a Party historian and political analyst told the Wall Street Journal. "His political life is over."
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Bo’s rapid rise through the ranks of the Communist Party was mirrored by his quick tumble from grace. He was on track to eventually join the party’s elite central law-making body after leading an overhaul in the southwestern city of Chongqing, but his political life and personal life began to unravel in 2012. His family came under the spotlight after it was revealed that his wife Gu Kailai, who is now serving her own term, a suspended death sentence, was allegedly involved with the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood. On top of that, claims that Bo’s family wealth and lavish lifestyle were ill-gotten came to the forefront, and later highlighted in the trial.