Chinese court rejects Bo Xilai appeal and upholds life sentence

John Sudworth: Proof Bo has been 'purged from the ranks' of politics

A Chinese court has rejected the appeal of former politician Bo Xilai and upheld his life sentence for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power.

The former Chongqing Communist Party leader was convicted of the charges in September.

He was removed from office in 2012 amid a scandal which saw his wife convicted of a British businessman's murder.

The high court in Shandong, the province where Bo's trial was held, accepted his appeal earlier this month.

"The facts of the first instance verdict are clear, the evidence is reliable, sufficient and the sentence is appropriate," the high court said in its ruling, which was posted on its website.

At the scene

The roads around Shandong province's highest court were sealed off for the appeal ruling. Proof, if any were needed, of the sensitivity and importance of the extraordinary story of Bo Xilai as it entered what is almost certainly its final chapter.

There were no surprises. From the start, China's official state-run media has held up this case as demonstrating the strength and transparency of the justice system. In reality, it does anything but.

Bo Xilai's attempt to cover up his wife's apparent involvement in the murder of Neil Heywood, followed by his police chief's attempted defection at a US consulate, caused the Communist Party such embarrassment that it had no choice but to act. The inclination though was almost certainly already there. Bo's rare charisma and unusually open ambition in a grey-suited world won him enemies and made him a threat.

With all the points of his appeal rejected, the convoy swept out of court carrying the blue-blooded "princeling" to the same elite-party prison in which his communist-stalwart father once spent time. Bo senior, of course, made a come-back, so you should never say never. But for now, China's political elite have yet again shown themselves to be remarkably efficient at purging one of their own from their ranks.

"The court rules as follows: reject the appeal, uphold the original verdict. This verdict is the final ruling."

The hearing appeared to have been brief, with the verdict coming about an hour after a convoy believed to be carrying Bo was seen arriving at the court.

Footage from state broadcaster CCTV showed Bo's elder son, Li Wangzhi, in court with other relatives.

Bo only receives one chance to appeal and his sentence is now final. He could submit a complaint to the Supreme People's Court in Beijing, but the vast majority of such complaints are rejected and do not result in another trial, reports the BBC's Celia Hatton in Beijing.

Correspondents said few expected Bo's conviction to be overturned. The courts are controlled by the ruling Communist Party, from which Bo was expelled from last year.

Shake-up

Bo Xilai, the charismatic former party chief in the city of Chongqing in south-western China, was a member of the powerful politburo - one of the 25 most senior party officials in the country.

Bo Xilai scandal: Timeline

  • 2 February 2012 -Wang Lijun seeks refuge at the US consulate in Chengdu
  • 15 March - Bo Xilai is removed from his post as party chief in Chongqing
  • 26 March - UK confirms it has asked China to re-examine Neil Heywood's death
  • 10 April - Bo Xilai is stripped of his Communist Party posts and his wife Gu Kailai is investigated over Neil Heywood's death
  • 20 August - Gu Kailai is given a suspended death sentence for the murder of Neil Heywood
  • 28 September - Bo Xilai is expelled from the Communist Party
  • 25 July 2013 - Bo Xilai is charged with corruption, bribery and abuse of power
  • 22 September: Bo Xilai found guilty on all charges and sentenced to life

But he was removed from office last year amid a scandal which began when his deputy, Wang Lijun, sought refuge in the US consulate in Chengdu.

The incident prompted an investigation into the death of British businessman Neil Heywood.

Bo Xilai's wife, Gu Kailai, was eventually convicted of Mr Heywood's murder - a crime caused, the court said, by a financial dispute.

Wang was also jailed for 15 years for helping Gu cover up the murder.

Bo himself was found guilty of taking bribes amounting to 20m yuan ($3.3m, £2m) either personally or through his family. He was also accused of abusing his office by using his position to cover up for his wife's crime.

Bo's supporters, however, believe he is the victim of a political purge. His downfall came as China prepared for its once-in-a-decade leadership transfer, as one generation of leaders made way for the next.

Bo had been seen as a candidate for the very top, until his fall from grace. It was the biggest political shake-up to hit China's ruling elite in decades.

The final verdict in the Bo case comes weeks before the Communist Party holds a major meeting in November to set economic policy.

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