Top 20 Stories of 2013 — No. 4: Bo Xilai Tried and Sentenced, More to Come
Disgraced former Politburo member Bo Xilai (L) during his sentencing at the Jinan Intermediate People’s Court, Jinan, eastern China's Shandong Province, Sept. 22. (Feng Li/Getty Images)
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The downfall of Bo Xilai, a former rising star of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), seemed to happen in slow motion.
While the Chinese regime can dispense swift punishment when it chooses, Bo was first detained in March 2012 and only sentenced on Sept. 22, 2013, 17 months later. The Party leadership used the intervening time to arrest Bo’s cronies and subordinates and prepare the Party and the people of China for the spectacle of one of the CCP’s top leaders in the dock.
All indications are that Bo Xilai is only the first casualty in a purge of former top Party officials.
In early December, Zhou Yongkang, the regime’s former domestic security czar, was formally arrested. The move followed upon months in which his former subordinates in the security apparatus, the oil industry, and the Sichuan Province CCP have been arrested and interrogated. According to a report by Hong Kong’s Sing Tao Daily, a document was circulated among Party leaders detailing the reasons for Zhou’s arrest.
In late November, state-run media was filled with unflattering stories about the family of former Propaganda Minister Li Changchun. China watchers say that when China’s media starts to discuss a leader’s private life, the regime is preparing the public for his being taken down. Party insiders say that former vice chair of the CCP Zeng Qinghong is also being targeted.
Bo Xilai, Zhou Yongkang, Li Changchun, and Zeng Qinghong are all part of the faction former paramount leader Jiang Zemin used to rule the CCP and China. Together, these four had laid plans for taking power from Xi Jinping shortly after he became head of the Party in November 2012. When Bo Xilai’s former right-hand man, Wang Lijun, fled to the U.S. Consulate seeking asylum in February 2012, this half-executed plan was exposed.
When Zhou and the others are tried, however, they will not be tried for something as serious as an attempted coup. Nor will they be tried for even more serious crimes: their responsibility for torture and crimes against humanity in the persecution of Falun Gong.
Bo was tried for bribery, corruption, and abuse of power. The corruption charges were serious enough to sentence him, but not serious enough to inflame the Chinese people’s resentment of the CCP. Look for Zhou, Li, and Zeng to be treated similarly.