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Chinese court rejects Bo Xilai's appeal, upholds life sentence

October 24, 2013|By Kathleen E. McLaughlin
  • A vehicle believed to be ferrying once-powerful politician Bo Xilai arrives at the Shandong high court building in Jinan, in eastern China's Shandong province, on Friday.
A vehicle believed to be ferrying once-powerful politician Bo Xilai arrives… (Goh Chai Hin / AFP/Getty…)

BEIJING --Bo Xilai’s last stand fizzled out without much fanfare Friday morning when a Chinese court turned down his appeal and upheld a life sentence for the once powerful Communist Party official, convicted last month of embezzlement, bribery and abuse of power.

The ruling was handed down by the high court of Shandong province in eastern China, bringing an apparent end to China’s most dramatic public political soap opera in decades.

Bo, the former national commerce minister who became party boss of the huge municipality of Chongqing, was taken down over bribes and corruption dating to his time as mayor of Dalian in the 1990s. But his dramatic fall from power came only after it was revealed in 2012 that his wife had killed a former British business associate.

The investigation of that death uncovered a web of billions of dollars in bribes and corruption that came to light when Bo fell out with his former police chief, who divulged details to the U.S. government.

But Bo’s trial and the earlier murder trial of his wife, Gu Kailai, left many major questions unanswered. The charges and trial never touched on Bo’s time in Chongqing, his last posting.

Bo, the son of one of China’s Communist Party elders, was among the two dozen most powerful politicians in China and highly ambitious. His unusually charismatic leadership style and populist programs in both Dalian and Chongqing made him popular with many, but he became a symbol of the corruption rife within high party ranks and it was his eventual downfall.

Bo's popularity may take some time for official China to erase, as hard as it tries to move on from the embarrassing case. On Thursday morning, the China Business Journal had a sardonic post on the upcoming appellate decision deleted from Weibo, the popular Chinese social media site. It read:

“Good morning China! Today a person will appear in the press as a public figure for the last time. In the foreseeable future, he will have to disappear from this land he passionately loved and worked hard on.”


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McLaughlin is a special correspondent.

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