It is widely believed that after disgraced Communist leader Bo Xilai walks inside the orderly courtroom in the eastern Chinese city of Jinan on Thursday morning, his indictment will be a matter of time and formality.
But despite the inevitability of the verdict – speculated to be a prison sentence long enough to snuff out any return to politics – sharp focus will be trained on the tightly guarded courtroom inside the Jinan Intermediate People’s Court.
Bo’s fall was a story of murder, money and sleaze – the biggest to have come out of China in decades. Since Bo’s expulsion from the Communist Party of China (CPC) and his wife Gu Kailai’s jail sentencing for allegedly murdering British businessman Neil Heywood, the CPC-run state media has milked the developments as an example of the Party’s unflinching war against corruption. And the top leadership of the CPC would want to make the verdict exemplary – an example of the much-vaunted principle that the high and mighty were not above the law.
The allegations against Bo, once CPC’s rising star, are grave enough – bribery, corruption and abuse of power. Financial corruption carries the death sentence in China. But given Bo’s background – his father was a powerful politician purged under Mao but rehabilitated under Deng Xiaoping – he’s likely to escape the death sentence.
But corruption is wide spread in China and will Bo’s indictment alone serve as strict message?
“The problem (of corruption) is an intractable one: how does the party (or any organisation for that matter) audit, police and punish itself without fear or favour if it lacks independent, accountable structures (judicial, media, public opinion, outside non-party related) to carry out the struggle against the pests, whether they are as small (and annoying) as flies, or as scary as tigers?” Geremie R Barme, renowned Sinologist and director, Australian Centre on China in the World, told HT over email. Barme was referring to President Xi Jinping’s recent statement that neither flies nor the tigers of corruption, indicating junior and senior government officials, will be spared.
The lack of an independent judiciary for one has cast a shadow on the trial as it did on the trial of Gu Kailai who was given a suspended death sentence last year rather swiftly – the verdict was delivered in seven hours. Critics have said Bo was targeted for his policies and apparent ambition.
“…whereas many people have noted that many of Bo Xilai's political ideas are pursued up by the new government or rather embraced by them, while the author of them is being dealt with through a particular judicial process,” Barme said.
The government expectedly has issued guidelines about how state media should cover the trial; popular microblogs will be particularly monitored.
“The media must absolutely follow Xinhua wire copy as the standard in covering the Bo Xilai trial. Heads and sponsors of news media must conscientiously strengthen monitoring of the weibo and blogs of subordinates,” a government directive issued on Tuesday and accessed by China Digital Times said.
Meanwhile, security was strengthened in and around the court house in Jinan on Wednesday. State-run Xinhua news agency carried photographs of security personnel directing sniffer dogs to check buildings in the neighbourhood for explosives. Court house staff were shown checking close-circuit televisions.