What Went On During Bo Xilai's Trial In China?
The five-day trial of fallen Chinese "princeling" Bo Xilai drew to a close Monday, with analysts certain that the fallen politician will spend most of his life behind bars.
For the last year, Bo's been locked in a scandal that features murder, adultery, embezzlement, and abuse. It's the biggest disgrace to strike China's ruling Communist Party for decades, and has enraptured the entire country. But make no mistake: the party leaders are omnipotent, and would not have featured Xilai in a public trial unless they had their own reasons for doing so. In this case, it's to use Bo as a symbol for the country's crackdown on corruption.
That said, Bo is likely not innocent, either.
A bit of background: Bo was born into political glory, and has been the face of the Communist Party in sprawling metropolis Chongqing for years. There, he cracked down widely and effectively on crime, and was known equally for his heavy-handed tactics and easygoing, charismatic demeanor, atypical of the ruling party. Last year, his wife, Gu Kailai, was convicted of the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, whom she poisoned with cyanide. She said that Heywood demanded millions from her and her husband, though Bo has gone back and forth about his exact involvement.
From there, Bo's star fell abruptly. He and his ex-second-in-command, Wang Lijun, became sworn enemies and began furiously accusing one another of being implicit in Kailai's crime. Bo was struck down with charges of embezzlement, abuse of power, and bribery during his time as political leader, and Lijun swiftly became the State's chief witness against him.
Simply put, the Communist Party is running this trial. Ninety-eight percent of defendants in trials run by the State are convicted, and the party sent Bo to trial in the first place in order to make an example of him. Bo is aware of this, and instead of this tuning out to be a predictable, two-day trial, he has fought what was expected of him every step of the way.
Bo's accused Lijun of conducting an affair with his wife, claimed that he lives too modestly to ever embezzle (citing cheap underwear as evidence) and has retracted his initial confession. More importantly, the charm he's been known for has taken center stage at trial. BBC's China correspondent put it this way:
Few doubt that Bo Xilai faces a lengthy prison sentence. China's communist leaders have been in charge of the trial from start to finish.
However whether they intended to or not, the party took a serious risk when deciding to place the charismatic Mr Bo in the spotlight for five days. No other leader, even China's charming President Xi Jinping, has spent that much time in front of the Chinese people. Mr Bo made jokes, admitted his personal failings and revealed intimate family details, giving China's population a much fuller portrait of Bo Xilai than any other Chinese political figure.
His closing argument on the final day of the trial, in which he expressed hope for the future of the Chinese judicial system and thanked the kind people of Shandong for hosting the trial, felt more like an election speech than a mea culpa. Mr Bo already has a sizeable power base in Chongqing, but it could be even larger now.
Bo's verdict will be delivered at a to-be-confirmed date, but it won't be a surprise: Bo will almost certainly face a lengthy and severe prison sentence. Though it's possible he could receive the death penalty, sentencing him as such would be a break from tradition for China, which never enforces capital punishment on public figures.