A high court in eastern China yesterday (October 9) formally accepted Bo Xilai’s appeal against his conviction for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power, although it seems the news failed to make a stir on either Sina Weibo or the state media.
Bo, ex-Politburo member, was a rising star in Chinese politics and cultivated a loyal following through his charisma and populist, quasi-Maoist policies, when his career was cut short last year by a murder scandal in which his wife, Gu Kailai, was convicted of poisoning a British businessman, Neil Heywood, who had been a family friend.
On September 22, after a week’s open trial details of which were posted on Sina Weibo, Bo was given a life sentence, against which he verbally appealed the same day and formally filed an application on September 30.
“Bo’s appeal was widely expected. If he did not do it, that would have been a surprise. During the first trial, despite sufficient evidence provided by the prosecution, Bo seemed to be full of distain from the start to end. When the final verdict was given, he turned pale and shaky,” wrote Wu Ruoyu, a popular grassroots blogger for Sina Blog (新浪草根名博), in a recent article.
Attorney Shang Baojun, a veteran in human rights cases, agreed, “It is hard to find breaking evidence for turning around the case, so Bo is now just showing off his defiant attitude.”
Shang then predicted the second trial probably would not go into court session, and it will just involve a review of the related legal documents of the first trial.
According to Chen Weidong, vice president of Research Institute of Criminal Law, if the appeal is filed against unfair sentencing with no new defense evidence that might change the original verdict, then there is no need for a court trial.
Based on China's criminal procedural law, Bo’s appeal would be heard in two months, or at most three months.
“There is thin chance for the life sentence verdict to be amended,” Shang Baojun told sino-us.com.
Is Bo Xilai case a turning point for China’s judicial system?
The reason why so many Chinese legal experts have been following the case is because Bo’s open trial is thought to indicate that China is heading for a more transparent justice system.
“The openness of Bo’s first trial is definitely a progress that should be encouraged, and from which we could clearly witness Bo was granted self-defending rights in full,” Qu Xinjiu, the principal of Criminal Law School of China University of Political Science and Law, told sino-us.com.
“The open trial of Bo is totally unprecedented—a quite rare opportunity for us to observe Chinese society, politics and legal system construction,” said He Liangliang, famous political commentator in an interview with Phoenix Satellite TV, although he later also noted the lukewarm reaction of China’s state media.
“No matter they are TV or newspaper: they are basically doing rubber stamp reports of the same specifications. They would mention about the case, but with no comments. They would not comment,” emphasized He Liangliang.
Some analysts said China’s leadership would hope the Bo case to be closed before November, when the Third Plenary Session would be held and President Xi’s new package of economic reforms would be mapped out.
In the past two decades, only two ex-Politburo members were tried with one being sentenced to 16 years and the other 18 years.
“I guess Bo Xilai is expecting for the lightest verdict for his fully convicted three crimes in the first trial, and that would be 20 years,” said Qu Xinjiu.