Despite early cynical predictions that disgraced politician and potential murderer Bo Xilai would get off easy thanks to his inestimable guangxi and familial connections, recent statements by officials seem to indicate that Bo will get the book thrown at him, with fatal consequences.
The Wall Street Journal reports:
“We have always had severe punishment for corrupt officials,” [Li Jingtian, executive vice president of China’s Central Party School] said during the interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday, in response to a question about the fate of Mr. Bo. Such interviews are rare for senior party officials.
He cited the examples of Liu Qingshan and Zhang Zishan, two leaders in the party’s early days who were executed in the 1950s following accusations of embezzlement and other crimes in one of the party’s first anticorruption campaigns.
Mr. Bo is currently awaiting trial. He hasn’t commented on the accusations against him in the past and isn’t reachable. Harsh punishment would signal a tough stance against corruption. New leaders installed in November have publicly worried that graft threatens the party’s hold on power. At the same time, throwing the book at a senior official with a familiar name could leave the perception that other top leaders are vulnerable.
Given the opaque nature of internal Communist Party politics, Li’s comments only indicate one potential outcome for Bo, but given Xi Jinping’s recent frequent pronouncements on the need to tackle corruption, what better way to demonstrate real commitment to change than killing off a famously crooked politician*.
*Note: Shanghaiist does not in any way endorse the death penalty, for anyone.
Update #1: The Beijing-backed Hong Kong newspaper, Ta Kung Pao, reports that Bo Xilai’s trial will open on Monday, citing “well informed Beijing sources”. A Reuters source “with direct knowledge of the case” told reporters he “had not heard” that the trial was so imminent.