Disgraced former top Chinese politician Bo Xilai to face corruption trial

Sunday 18 August 2013 22.40
Corruption trial of disgraced senior politician Bo Xilai will be China's most divisive since 1976 'Gang of Four' convictions
Corruption trial of disgraced senior politician Bo Xilai will be China's most divisive since 1976 'Gang of Four' convictions

China's most important political trial in almost 30 years is to begin on 22 August, state media has announced.

Disgraced senior politician Bo Xilai will face charges of bribery, corruption and abuse of power in an early test of new President Xi Jinping's campaign against political corruption.

The trial of the 64-year-old is the country's most divisive since the 1976 downfall of Mao Zedong's widow, Jiang Qing, convicted in the 'Gang of Four' show-trials at the end of the Cultural Revolution.

Mr Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, and his police chief, Wang Lijun, have both been jailed over the scandal stemming from the November 2011 murder of British businessman Neil Heywood in the south-western city of Chongqing, where Mr Bo was Communist Party chief.

It is almost certain Mr Bo will be convicted as China's prosecutors and judges are controlled by the ruling Communist Party.

The trial of Mr Bo - a "princeling" son of a late vice premier who is still popular with conservatives and the disaffected - will be a test of the effectiveness of Preident Xi's battle against corruption and will also show how he has been able to stamp his authority on the party that he leads.

President Xi has vowed to fight people at every level of the party as he combats pervasive corrpution, so serious he has warned it threatens the party's very survival.

Mr Bo, a former commerce minister, used his post as party boss of Chongqing to cast the sprawling, fog-shrouded municipality into a showcase for his mix of populist policies and bold spending plans that won support from leftists yearning for a charismatic leader.

His wife was a lawyer and their son, Bo Guagua, was educated at an expensive, elite British private school and then Oxford University. 

While wooing investors, Mr Bo senior also envisioned low-cost housing for rural poor and migrant labourers, designed to appeal to then-President Hu Jintao's goal of creating a "harmonious society".

He called his vision "Peaceful Chongqing." It included text messages with Maoist slogans, singing old-style revolutionary songs by civil servants, who also had to adopt poor families and staff petition offices where citizens can complain.

Mr Bo's former police chief, Mr Wang, had spearheaded a controversial drive against organised crime, a prominent plank in Mr Bo's barely concealed campaign to join the top ranks of the party.