The once powerful Polit Bureau member Bo Xilai, who last month stood trial facing corruption charges, will, on Sunday morning, learn of his fate from a court in northeastern China as the Communist Party finally closes the chapter on a tumultuous political scandal.
The Jinan Intermediate People’s Court, in Shandong province, said on Wednesday it will deliver the verdict on the morning of September 22, 2013 the official Xinhua news agency reported.
At Mr. Bo’s five-day trial, which closed on August 26, 2013 prosecutors demanded a heavy sentence for the former “princeling”, who earlier served as Commerce Minister and as Party chief in the southwestern municipality of Chongqing, before his dramatic and unexpected fall from power.
He stands accused of receiving bribes amounting to 28 million Yuan (around Rs. 28 crore) and covering up the murder of British business associate Neil Heywood, who was poisoned by Mr. Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai. Ms. Gu was, last year, sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve – expected to be reduced to a lengthy jail-term. Mr. Bo denied the charges.
While Mr. Bo’s trial was seen by many in China as a choreographed affair, his stout defence surprised some observers, particularly as it exposed the depth of corruption and sordid private affairs of one of the Party’s most powerful “Red” families. Mr. Bo’s father, Bo Yibo, was a respected Party elder and associate of Mao Zedong, and left his son with a wide network of allies.
During the trial, Mr. Bo blamed his wife for mismanaging the family’s financial dealings, and said he had had no knowledge of the money received from the businessman Xu Ming, who built his empire in Dalian at a time when Mr. Bo served as Party boss.
The proceedings lifted a veil on the often murky dealings between CPC officials and local businessmen, with prosecutors alleging that Mr. Xu had paid for Mr. Bo’s son to study at the elite Harrow school in the United Kingdom, and had, at one point, even flown the younger Bo and his friends to Africa on a private jet.
Mr. Bo also accused Party investigators of pressuring him to confess to the charges, and said he had not been given a fair hearing. But whether Mr. Bo's strong defence was a breaking from the script, or merely staged to bestow credibility on the proceedings, has divided observers in China.
In an effort to legitimise a case seen by many as one decided by the Party’s internal politicking rather than by the courts, the CPC provided detailed updates of the proceedings through the court’s microblog account, which attracted half a million followers by the end of last month, reflecting the wide interest in the case.
The CPC, which has faced increasing criticism at home for failing to do more to stamp out graft within its ranks, has sought to use the case to send a strong message, with new leader Xi Jinping highlighting the fight against corruption as one of his administration’s main priorities during its first year in charge. But whether or not the Party succeeds in doing so may hinge, in no small measure, on Sunday’s verdict.