BEIJING – The long-awaited trial of deposed Chinese politician Bo Xilai will begin Thursday, a court announced Sunday, setting into motion the final chapter to one of modern China’s most dramatic and politically fraught cases and carrying deep potential implications for the ruling Communist Party.
For more than a year, the once-powerful regional party chief Bo has been at the center of scandal, political maneuvering and negotiations within the party. His fall from grace – sparked in part by the suspicious death of a British businessman – led to the party’s biggest scandal and crisis in the past two decades and exposed divisions among its leaders.
Because of the danger that those rifts pose to the party, the outcome of Thursday’s trial has probably already been decided, say political analysts and officials within the party.
The verdict won’t be made by the court, but by the seven members of the party’s standing committee, said Zhang Sizhi, a lawyer who defended the widow of party founder Mao Zedong in 1980 in a similarly sensational and politically charged trial. Everything in court is already arranged. The court will be nothing but a rehearsed performance.
Bo represented a brash, left-wing, Maoist ideology that was in some ways the antithesis of the party’s market-driven factions. But the scandal and inner party battle that led to his fall from grace was largely a struggle between power factions and not over ideological differences, party officials say.
Many believe that the negotiations over his fate have largely played out along the same lines. One key factor is Bo’s complicated relationship with China’s new president, Xi Jinping.
Bo was very ambitious. He looked down upon Xi Jinping when he was young, said one person with close ties with other princelings and schoolmates of both men. When mentioning Xi Jinping in any occasion in those days, Bo Xilai often called him idiot’ and Xi knew it.
Bo has not been heard from since his ouster from the party and its powerful 25-member Politburo. His wife, Gu Kailai, and former lieutenant Wang Lijun, were both tried and sentenced on charges related to the death of the British man, Neil Heywood. Many critics have also derided their trials as predetermined show trials.