China turns focus on Bo Xilai after protégé sentenced to 15 years

Former police chief's 'lenient' punishment signals purged leader may soon face charges

Beijing

The one-time protégé and former police chief of Bo Xilai was sentenced to 15 years in prison yesterday for attempting to defect, accepting bribes and trying to cover up the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood in a case that could provide important clues about the fate awaiting the purged Communist leader.

Wang Lijun's flight to the US Consulate in Chengdu earlier this year triggered the chain of events that ultimately led to Mr Bo's downfall and the conviction of his wife, Gu Kailai, for the November 2011 murder of Mr Heywood. She was given a suspended life sentence at a trial last month.

Yesterday, the Xinhua news agency reported that Wang, the former police chief in Chongqing where Mr Bo was the Communist Party boss, was sentenced for "bending the law for selfish ends, defection, abuse of power and bribe-taking".

Although defection, corruption and abuse of power are generally treated as capital crimes in China, the court in Chengdu heard that Wang had "exposed clues of major law-breaking and crimes by others" and "rendered a major contribution", which qualified him for a lighter sentence. The court heard how Mr Bo apparently beat Wang after he confronted him over the murder allegations, forcing him to flee to the US consulate, as he feared for his life.

The conclusion of the trial prompted speculation about the prospects for Mr Bo, and what impact all of this could have on the once-in-a-decade leadership transition expected to take place next month.

The primary concern in China at the moment is ensuring stability in the leadership transition from President Hu Jintao to Vice President Xi Jinping, especially with the economy looking set for a hard landing, and regional tensions mounting in the stand-off with Japan.

"This is a show trial and it means Bo Xilai will get a lenient sentence," said Willy Wo-Lap Lam, a professor at Hong Kong's Chinese University, after the conclusion of the Wang case. "The sentence was surprisingly lenient. For any other people charged with such serious crimes and corruption, they would at least receive a suspended death sentence."

He believes there will be no criminal charge against Mr Bo, but instead there would be internal party disciplinary proceedings. "He will get a slap on the wrist," said Mr Lam.

Mr Bo, son of the revolutionary hero Bo Yibo, retains considerable influence within certain factions of the Party, and harsh sentencing could upset his allies. Among those patrons are former leader Jiang Zemin, who still retains a role in the Communist Party nearly a decade after he stepped down as leader, but who is rumoured to be set to make a pointed appearance at the forthcoming congress. However, other analysts see it differently.

He Bing, professor of law at the China University of Political Science and Law, believes Mr Bo could face criminal charges for taking bribes, and that he may be sentenced to life imprisonment or even the death penalty. And he fully expects this to happen before the 18th party congress, which is expected to be held next month.

Steve Yui-Sang Tsang, director of the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham, believes that the sentence is so lenient it almost suggests that Mr Wang was set up to bring about Mr Bo's downfall. "My money is on Bo being left out of the new Politburo and Central Committee but no verdict on him until after the Party Congress," he added.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea