by Staff Writers
Chongqing, China (AFP) Aug 20, 2013
Once one of China's highest-flying politicians, Bo Xilai will find himself in a criminal dock Thursday on trial for bribery and abuse of power in the country's highest-profile prosecution in decades.
His downfall began when a British businessman was found dead in a hilltop hotel room. As the drama finally nears its conclusion, the Communist Party is touting it as proof of its intent to crack down on corruption.
The scandal -- which saw Bo's police chief flee to a US consulate and his wife convicted of murder -- erupted in the buildup to a once-in-a-decade leadership handover that saw Xi Jinping elevated as communist chief in November.
Analysts say Bo's revival of the trappings of Mao-era China -- including mass concerts singing "red" songs -- while party chief in the mega-city of Chongqing alarmed sections of China's top leadership, who saw the campaigns as a brash return to a bygone era of strongman rule.
In Chongqing, winding roads lead to the Lijing Holiday hotel atop the forested Nanshan hill. In one of several villas with sweeping views of the sprawling city, Bo's wife Gu Kailai is said to have poisoned her former business partner Neil Heywood in November 2011.
The hotel still sees a steady stream of wealthy visitors who dine in a rustic restaurant -- but staff denied the existence of the room where court documents say the murder happened.
"There is no room 1605," a hotel receptionist who declined to be named told AFP. "I do not know what you are talking about."
Bo, the "princeling" son of one of China's most revered revolutionary generals, met Heywood when he was mayor of Dalian in the late 1990s.
An English teacher turned business consultant, Heywood cultivated an aristocratic air and became close to Bo as well as his wife, a high-flying lawyer.
He seemed the perfect person to guide their son Bo Guagua as he started studies at a preparatory school in Britain, before going on to Heywood's alma mater of Harrow, and then Oxford and Harvard.
As his connections with Bo and Gu deepened, Heywood reportedly bought an expensive villa in Beijing, and a Jaguar sports car with the licence plate "007".
Bo's family is said to have amassed immense wealth, owning property in France, Britain and the United States, and reports say Heywood helped invest millions overseas.
But as Gu became closer to Bo's right-hand man Wang Lijun -- a flamboyant martial-arts trained policeman who oversaw the politician's mafia crackdown in Chongqing -- Heywood's relationship with her began to sour.
The two clashed over a business deal, according to the official account of Gu's trial. And in a dingy hotel room she plied Heywood with alcohol before pouring a cyanide-based poison into his mouth, the court heard.
When Heywood's body was discovered, he was diagnosed as having suffered a heart attack and quickly cremated.
But the scandal became public early last year after Bo fell out with Wang over the murder, slapping him in the face, according to the court account of Wang's trial, and sacking him.
Shortly afterwards, Wang appeared at the door of the US consulate in the neighbouring city of Chengdu in February 2012, offering stunned diplomats a raft of secrets.
A stand-off ensued before Wang was escorted to Beijing by a top Chinese security official, reportedly because he feared assassination.
As rumours of Bo's imminent arrest began to swirl, he remained defiant, telling reporters in March last year that accusations against him were "sheer rubbish".
"A few people have been pouring filth on Chongqing and me and my family," he said.
But a terse announcement by China's state news agency days later sealed his fate: Bo had been relieved of his post and faced an internal party investigation, spelling the end of his political career.
Even so, it has taken more than a year for him to come to court, reportedly as communist factions jostle over his fate.
Gu and Wang were convicted in carefully orchestrated trials, with Gu handed a suspended death sentence -- usually commuted to life in prison -- for Heywood's murder in August, and Wang 15 years in jail for his role in its cover-up a month later.
Last month Bo was formally indicted on charges of bribery, graft and abuse of power.
Analysts say the trial in the eastern city of Jinan will be short and predictable, with a guilty plea virtually certain and a decades-long jail sentence to follow.
In a statement to the New York Times, the 25-year-old Bo Guagua said he had been denied contact with his parents for 18 months and warned that any horse-trading over his own well-being would mean the verdict against his father "will clearly carry no moral weight".
Timeline of Chinese politician Bo Xilai's downfall
- 15: British businessman Neil Heywood is found dead in a hotel room in Chongqing, a sprawling municipality in southwestern China. Authorities rule the cause of death was a heart attack and his body is quickly cremated.
- 2: Bo's right-hand man and Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun is demoted.
- 6: Wang visits US embassy in Chengdu reportedly seeking political asylum.
- 7: Wang leaves US embassy of his own volition.
- 8: Wang is placed on sick leave for stress and over-work. Sick leave is a term often used as a euphemism for a political purge in China.
- 2: State news agency Xinhua says Wang has been placed under investigation, giving no further details.
- 9: Bo publicly defends his wife during a press conference at the annual meeting of China's National People's Congress, or parliament.
- 15: Bo sacked from Chongqing party secretary position, with no reason given for his dismissal.
- 26: British government asks China to investigate Heywood's death. Rumours that Bo's wife Gu Kailai may have been involved begin to circulate.
- 10: Bo is stripped of his position in the Communist Party's powerful 25-member Politburo and the wider Central Committee. Government says Gu is being investigated on suspicion of involvement in Heywood's murder.
- 26: Gu and Zhang Xiaojun, a family employee, are charged with killing Heywood.
- 20: Gu is handed a suspended death sentence for murder. The sentence is usually commuted to life in prison.
- 5: Wang is charged with defection, taking bribes and abuse of power. An indictment quoted by state media said Wang had "known beforehand" that Gu was under "serious suspicion" of murdering Heywood, without taking action.
- 24: Wang is sentenced to 15 years in prison following a two-day trial in which he does not object to charges against him.
- 28: China's state media says Bo is expelled from the party and will "face justice".
- 26: Bo Xilai is expelled from China's parliament, removing his immunity from prosecution.
- 25: Prosecutors charge Bo with corruption, bribery and abuse of power.
- 18: Bo's trial date set for August 22 at the Intermediate People's Court in the eastern city of Jinan.
China News from SinoDaily.com
|The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2012 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement|