On Sunday morning, the most closely followed court case in China since the infamous “Gang of Four” trial more than three decades ago will reach its denouement in this northeastern provincial city.
The former Politburo member and “princeling”, Bo Xilai, will learn of his fate as the Jinan Intermediate People’s Court announces a verdict to close the chapter on a political scandal that has brought rare public scrutiny into the corruption that greases the politics at the highest levels of the Communist Party (CPC).
At Mr. Bo’s five-day trial last month, he stood accused of receiving bribes in excess of 28 million Yuan (around Rs. 28 crore).
He was also charged with covering up the murder of a British business associate of the Bo family, who was poisoned by Mr. Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai.
Jinan, the provincial capital of Shandong, provides an unlikely setting for the final chapter of a saga that has transfixed China.
The CPC ensured the trial was held far away from the fiefdoms established by Mr. Bo in Chongqing and Dalian.
On Saturday, two police patrols stood watch outside the sprawling court complex in downtown Jinan.
The unique interest in Mr. Bo, who was rare among current politicians in cultivating a public persona – one that was built around his populist, neo-Maoist brand of politics – was reflected in the unprecedented online interest in the trial, with half a million people signing on to the Jinan court’s microblog for updates.
Mr. Bo is almost certain to be found guilty on most, if not all, charges, in a country where courts have a 99 percent conviction rate.
The new CPC leadership under Xi Jinping has framed the case as proving its seriousness in tackling graft amid rising public anger at corruption. transparency
Mr. Xi’s government has, at the same time, recently rounded up activists calling for greater transparency into officials’ assets, showing its limited appetite for serious reforms.
On Jinan’s streets, the verdict is still out.
“The other politicians are just as corrupt, or more corrupt, than Bo Xilai”, as one resident put it.
“At least he did something for the people”.
“This is all politics,” added another.“Nothing to do with us ordinary people”.