Beijing's 'rule of law' gamble fails in show trial of Bo Xilai
By Bill Smith , dpaBEIJING -- Chinese state media on Sunday hailed the “open” trial and sentencing of deposed regional party leader Bo Xilai as proof of the Communist Party's commitment to the rule of law.
September 23, 2013, 12:03 am TWN
Yet critics and international rights groups said the legal process was further evidence of the party's total control over the judiciary.
“A lot of people speculate that there's no judicial independence in China, but this case shows just the opposite,” Li Zhaojie, a law professor at Beijing's Tsinghua University, said after Bo was sentenced to life in prison for corruption, embezzlement and abuse of power.
“Even though the punishment is quite severe, the court still ruled out a certain part of the charges made by the prosecutors, so that shows that this trial is not a show trial,” Li told state broadcaster China Central Television.
State media trumpeted the unprecedented posting online of partial transcripts of the proceedings, and some observers hope that the limited openness will be used in other trials, perhaps spurring improvements in judicial independence.
But Nicolas Bequelin, a Hong Kong-based expert on China for Human Rights Watch, said Bo's trial was an “elaborate political show” that failed to meet “even minimal standards of due process.”
“The life sentence handed down today ... is the outcome of a political trial, one that failed to provide due process to Bo, failed to provide justice to his victims, and failed to provide the truth about his abuses of power to the Chinese public,” Bequelin said.
Zhang Ming, a political scientist at Renmin University in Beijing, said the Communist Party also failed in its attempt to show Bo to his supporters as a disgraced and corrupt politician.
“They want to make him disappear from political life. However, this might not be achieved,” Zhang told dpa.
“They attempted to destroy his reputation with his supporters through this trial, but they failed,” Zhang said. “His performance in court was mainly a show for his supporters.”
In photographs published by the court and state media, Bo stood in the front of the judges on Sunday, holding a sheaf of papers and flanked by uniformed police officers wearing white gloves.
The home page of people.com.cn, the website of the party's official newspaper, People's Daily, showed a later close-up of Bo handcuffed as the police officers gripped his shoulders and forearms.