China leaders fear Bo return if sentence is not harsh: sources
ReutersBEIJING/SHANGHAI--Senior figures in China's ruling Communist Party fear ousted politician Bo Xilai could stage a political comeback one day if he is not dealt a harsh sentence in his trial for corruption, embezzlement and abuse of power, according to sources.
August 29, 2013, 12:22 am TWN
Bo was a rising star who analysts say was seen as a potential rival to President Xi Jinping for leadership of the Party and country before his career was spectacularly derailed by a lurid murder scandal involving his wife.
Chinese courts are controlled by the Party and do not generally dismiss its charges against defendants, especially in politically sensitive cases, so Bo will almost certainly be found guilty.
But the unprecedented openness of his five-day trial, approved by those at the top of the Party, may ironically limit the ability of the court to mete out the tough sentence many of those same leaders favor, analysts said.
“Bo is the biggest threat to Xi. If Bo is not executed or does not die of illness, the possibility of Bo staging a comeback one day cannot be ruled out,” a source with ties to the leadership, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters.
State broadcaster CCTV said a verdict was expected in early September. The five-day trial closed on Monday.
China's Communist Party has a rich history of purges and rehabilitations, with perhaps none as spectacular as that of Deng Xiaoping, architect of the market reforms that remade the country.
Deng was ejected from government during the tumultuous Cultural Revolution, but after Mao Zedong died in 1976 he engineered a comeback and went on to rule as China's paramount leader for almost two decades until his own death in 1997.
In an unprecedented effort to show Bo's trial was fair, the Intermediate People's Court in the eastern city of Jinan posted near real-time updates of the proceedings on its microblog on the Twitter-like Weibo platform.
There was evidence of some redactions but an observer in the courtroom who also declined to be identified said the web postings captured the essence of the trial, in which Bo denied all wrongdoing and mounted a feisty defense that surprised many.
Bo stuck largely to addressing the charges and avoided politics, a strategy that a second source with leadership ties said consolidated his position as “China's leftist leader” and showed he was playing the long game.
“Bo is betting on political reform (one day) to make a comeback,” the source said.
Much of the minutiae of the trial focused on how illicit payments went to Bo's wife and son, rather than directly to him.
In a poll on Weibo, more people who had a negative view of Bo before the trial said their impression had improved than those who said their impression of him had deteriorated by a margin of about three-to-one. Of those who said they had a positive impression to begin with, five-in-six said their view became even more positive.