Bo Xilai

Bo Xilai likely to escape criminal charges, analysts say

Analysts say secret deals mean ex-party boss of Chongqing is unlikely to face criminal charges

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 August, 2012, 8:41am

Now that his wife Gu Kailai has been given a suspended death sentence, many analysts believe the disgraced former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai is unlikely to face any criminal charges himself.

Bo's name was not even mentioned during Gu's trial for intentional homicide, suggesting that he will not be implicated and that any action he does face will be designed not to cause more waves in the run-up to the national party congress later this year.

Zhang Lifan , a political commentator formerly with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Bo would probably escape criminal charges. The most severe punishment he is likely to face, said Zhang, is having his party membership revoked.

"His wife did not contest the charge against her and was co-operative in the investigation, suggesting that some kind of agreement was reached concerning how Bo's case would be handled and that Bo had no plan to resist the authorities," he added.

He said the party had obtained evidence during the investigation into Bo's former right-hand man Wang Lijun - who fled to the US Consulate in Chengdu in February - that could implicate Bo for other crimes and would stop him from making a comeback. "The party is holding that evidence, and would use it to purge Bo if he attempted to challenge its authority," Zhang said.

"I believe Bo and his supporters also hold some evidence of wrongdoing against his challengers, and they would use this evidence for their personal gain if they felt that Bo's case was being handled too severely."

Johnny Lau Yui-siu, a commentator on mainland affairs, said Bo's fate would be wrapped up before the 18th National Party Congress is held later this year to name the country's next leadership.

"The personnel reshuffle during the party congress was probably decided when party leaders met in Beidaihe," he said, referring to meetings among leaders that reportedly ended last week at the beach resort in Hebei province. "The party elites dare not back Bo now."

Lau said to minimise the impact on China's international image and internal politics, the party would erase any links between Bo and the confession made by his wife claiming responsibility for the killing of British businessman Neil Heywood.

Zhang Ming , a political scientist at Renmin University, said Bo might still be charged for covering up Heywood's murder.

In a high-profile press conference in March before he was removed from his post, Bo rejected claims that his wife had become wealthy as a lawyer, saying that she had retired after their marriage, and that the couple did not have personal assets.

"My wife is now nothing more than a housewife and I am moved by her sacrifice," Bo said.

But the timing of the murder last November, after the family had a financial dispute with Heywood, triggered concerns about the truth of Bo's claims.

Zhang Ming said the party faced a dilemma over how to deal with Bo - charging him for economic crimes might implicate more officials, triggering more political uncertainty, but letting him go free of any charge was dangerous to the party's credibility.

"If Bo wasn't locked up, he might seek a political comeback given that he was so well connected with influential party members, which is something the future leadership does not want to see," Zhang said, referring to Bo's "princeling" background as the son of former vice-premier Bo Yibo .