Bo Xilai Charged With Corruption and ‘Abuse of Power’

July 24, 2013 Updated: July 25, 2013

In a terse announcement on its website, Xinhua, the official news agency of the Chinese state, said that purged Politburo member Bo Xilai had been indicted and would face trial on charges of “bribery, corruption, and abuse of power.”

No date was given in the announcement, which was a mere two sentences in English.

The case against Bo was being prepared by the People’s Procuratorate of Jinan City, the capital of Shandong Province on China’s east coast. Bo was said to be guilty of “using his position to seek benefits for himself,” and accepting “especially huge amounts” of money and property in the form of bribes, according to the Chinese-language announcement. His abuse of power “brought great losses to the interests of the people and the country, under particularly grave circumstances,” the notice said.

Bo Xilai has been held in captivity since April of 2012: first under the secretive form of internal Party detention and interrogation known as shuanggui, and then in the hands of judicial authorities, who would have been instructed in what to charge Bo with, and what evidence to uncover, by Party security committees.

The trial of Bo is one of the most politically charged and sensitive in a generation. It began after a scandal last year when his deputy, Wang Lijun, the former chief of police of Chongqing, the large southwestern city that Bo presided over as Party Secretary, made a midnight trip to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu, Sichuan, in February of 2012, and may have attempted to defect.

After recording confessions and revelations by Wang for over a day, American officials handed him to a security official from Party Central in Beijing rather than to Bo Xilai’s men, who had by that time surrounded the U.S. compound with paramilitary police.

Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, was in August 2012 charged with the murder of a British business associate, Neil Heywood, and was given a suspended death sentence; Wang Lijun was in September 2012 convicted of a range of offenses, including defection and “bending the law for selfish ends,” and sent to prison for 15 years.

Those sentences, and the charges against Bo — according to one unconfirmed report he is going to be accused of accepting $3.25 million in bribes, a paltry sum in the context of corruption on China — skirt over many of the more politically explosive aspects of the cases.

Bo and Wang, for example, were thought to have been part of a conspiracy, along with former regime leader Jiang Zemin, and former security czar Zhou Yongkang, to stage a coup and gain power in China. Reports emerged last year that Bo had tapped the phones of the Party’s top leaders, and was able to listen to their private conversations.

Bo and his wife, Gu Kailai, while Bo was mayor of Dalian, a city in the north, may also have been involved in the trade in the corpses of executed prisoners — likely including prisoners of conscience — sold to companies that plastinated them and then put them on display around the world.

Wang Lijun boasted in a speech, which was later removed from the Internet, that he had engaged in “thousands” of “on site” organ transplantations, a reference that experts took to mean implied a clinical setting in which the victims had most likely been merely anaesthetized, rather than killed, before their organs were extracted for transplant. Analysts also thought it likely, given the context of his speech, that many of those thousands of victims were practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline that has been persecuted in China since 1999.

Wang Lijun’s organ harvesting related activities occurred in Liaoning Province, which Bo Xilai presided over from 2000-2004. Researcher Ethan Gutmann has called the province the epicenter of organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners.

None of these more serious charges appeared in the stage-managed trials of Gu and Wang, and are not expected to enter into the trial of Bo Xilai, whose verdict will have been determined by the Communist Party before he enters the courtroom.