Netizens cheer big step in battle against corruption

CHINA - MANY Chinese netizens cheered the life sentence handed to disgraced former politician Bo Xilai as a huge step forward in Beijing's crackdown on corruption in the highest levels of office.

"Merits and demerits cannot be offset, and since he broke the law, (Bo Xilai) should be punished. No exceptions," wrote netizen "kaixinxueyudujuanhua" on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo microblog.

Another Weibo user "enhu" said the Bo case was a good lesson to all government officials that everyone is equal in the eyes of the law. "This gives great hope to China," he added.

Another user named "dingding" wrote: "It is an epoch-making signal that the Communist Party's Central Committee will seriously fight 'tigers' of corruption."

President Xi Jinping has declared his determination to tame "tigers" and "flies" (referring to high- and low-ranking officials respectively ) in his anti-graft fight.

News of Bo's sentence turned Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, into a hive of activity on Sunday morning.

Netizens, besides discussing the heavy sentence, also commented on photos of the once high-flying Bo in handcuffs - released on the court's Weibo account and shown in state broadcaster CCTV's news bulletins. CCTV also aired a 30-minute special on the trial proceedings on Sunday.

However, despite the sentence being the most severe meted out to such a senior Chinese politician in three decades, many netizens did not seem taken aback.

Some remarked cynically that it had probably been predetermined by the top echelons of Chinese politics, and that without a death penalty, corrupt officials are unlikely to be frightened.

One netizen, for instance, said the court case simply showed that "the parties involved are like chess pieces" and that "Chinese people like to watch movies".

On the other hand, there were some Bo supporters who found the sentence overly harsh and expressed sympathy for him.

One wrote on Weibo: "You would rather die on your feet than live on your knees. History will prove your innocence."

Another Weibo user "qingfengwenyue" said: "I feel so sorry for him - my heart aches."

The muted tone of commentaries online, most of which expressed support for the sentence, led some observers to allude to the possibility of heightened censorship by Beijing in one of the country's most politically charged trials in decades.

There was celebration as well, among those who wagered correctly - in what seemed to be a betting pool on Weibo that was put together hours before the verdict - that Bo would be handed a life sentence. Most of the wagering-related posts have since been deleted.

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