LONDON – After a year of unexplained delay, the trial of Bo Xilai, the former Communist Party secretary of Chongqing municipality, is finally about to begin. Bo faces three charges: corruption, bribery, and abuse of power. But his real offense is that he challenged the Chinese Communist Party’s way of doing things. Moreover, his wife’s conviction of the widely publicized murder of British businessman Neil Heywood has severely embarrassed the CCP.
When the court finally convicts Bo – and he is certain to be convicted – he will probably face a prison term similar to that of former Shanghai Party Secretary Chen Liangyu, who received 18 years, or former Beijing Party Secretary Chen Xitong, who was sentenced to 16 years. Like Bo, both men had been members of the CCP Central Committee, the Party’s inner circle – a status that allowed them to escape a death sentence (unlike the lower-ranking former Minister of Railways Liu Zhijun following his conviction on similar charges of corruption and abuse of power).
For the Party, however, Bo’s conviction will not mark the end of the scandal. Nor will the shadow cast over the CCP by his high-living, exiled son Bo Guagua and his homicidal wife Bogu Kailai simply disappear. But the fall of Bo and his family hardly rises to the level of Shakespearean tragedy. King Lear this is not.
Of course, Bo and his wife and son have been morally dead for some time. Power sapped their humanity. Bogu killed Heywood, her lover and business partner, and many other innocent people died as a result of Bo’s ambition. His thuggish chief henchman, the former Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun, fled to the US consulate in Chengdu, fearing that his life was in jeopardy because he knew too much about Heywood’s murder and Bo’s other crimes.