Bo appeals - with 'zero chance' of success

Bo appeals - with 'zero chance' of success
Bo in 2011, during a plenary meeting of China’s parliament. He was convicted last month of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power by a court in Jinan, in Shandong province.

A chinese high court will hear an appeal by former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai against his life sentence, in what is likely to be the final act of China's most sensational political trial in decades.

However, the bad news for Bo is that the appeal is not expected to change the Sept22 court decision, which would have been agreed to by top leaders, say analysts.

"There is almost a zero chance of success in his appeal. After all, many believe that his punishment was not determined independently by the courts but by the top leadership," said Wuhan University law professor Qin Qianhong.

Bo, 64, was a high-flying member of the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo, but a Maoist-revival campaign in the southwestern municipality and his brazen campaign for a seat in the apex Politburo Standing Committee made him a divisive figure.

He was ousted in March last year, a month after his former police chief, Wang Lijun, fled to the US consulate in Chengdu where he revealed Bo's attempts to cover up his wife Gu Kailai's murder of Briton Neil Heywood in 2011.

Last month, a court in Jinan, provincial capital of Shandong, convicted Bo of bribery, embezzlement of funds totalling more than 27 million yuan (S$5.5 million) and abuse of power.

Bo is the most senior official to get the harsh punishment of a life sentence since the Cultural Revolution ended in 1976.

The Shandong supreme court's announcement on Wednesday confirmed earlier reports about Bo's intention to appeal.

Under Chinese laws, the court will not impose a harsher sentence like the death penalty even if the appeal fails, according to China University for Political Science and Law analyst He Bing.

Beijing-based lawyer Hao Jinsong said: "This is to protect the offender's right of appeal."

Should he lose his appeal, Bo still has a final recourse. He can lodge petitions to, for instance, the Supreme People's Court on grounds of injustice, Prof Qin said.

"But the chances of Bo taking this route are low because he knows his fate won't change. He's appealing only to milk the resulting publicity and to show that he has contested the verdict."

Analysts say his appeal, which could take between two weeks and three months to be concluded, could be handled differently, in contrast to his high-profile five-day trial in late August.

The Jinan court at the time released real-time updates of the legal proceedings, which saw Bo mounting a stout defence and attacking the credibility of several prosecution witnesses, including his wife.

Unlike a trial, an appeal does not have to be held in open court and can be conducted behind closed doors through written submissions from defence and prosecution, said Prof Qin.

Political considerations could be at play too, said Mr Hao.

"Top leaders probably think they have given Bo ample opportunity to make his case," he added.

kianbeng@sph.com.sg


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