Chinese court sentenced ousted senior politician Bo Xilai to life in jail on Sunday after finding him guilty on all counts following his dramatic five-day trial last month on charges of corruption, taking bribes and abuse of power.
Bo was a rising star in China’s leadership circles when his career was stopped short last year by a murder scandal in which his wife, Gu Kailai, was convicted of poisoning a British businessman, Neil Heywood, who had been a family friend.
The court in the eastern city of Jinan, where Bo was tried, also ordered that all his personal assets be seized, and deprived him of his political rights for life too, according to a transcript released by the court’s official microblog.
“Bo Xilai was a servant of the state, he abused his power, causing huge damage to the country and its people ... The circumstances were especially serious,” the court said in its judgement.
Bo, 64, has 10 days to appeal from Monday, the court added.
State media said he was likely to appeal, in which case the supreme court in Shandong province, where Jinan is located, would have to hear the case within two months.
The court showed a picture of a handcuffed Bo, with clenched fists in an apparent show of defiance, flanked by two towering policemen who held him by his shoulders and forearms. Two more policemen stood by.
At the close of Bo’s trial last month, prosecutors demanded a heavy sentence, saying his “whimsical” challenge to charges flew in the face of the evidence. State media, which speaks for the party, had already all but condemned him.
Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post cited a source last week as saying Bo believes one day his name will be cleared.
“I will wait quietly in the prison,” Bo said in a letter to his family last week, according to the newspaper.
Bo, who was Communist Party chief of the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing, mounted an unexpectedly feisty defence during his trial, denouncing testimony against him by his wife as the ravings of a mad woman.
He repeatedly said he was not guilty of any of the charges, though he admitted making some bad decisions and shaming his country by his handling of former Chongqing police chief, Wang Lijun, who first told Bo that Gu had probably murdered Heywood.
Wang fled to the U.S. consulate in the nearby city of Chengdu in February last year after confronting Bo with evidence that Gu was involved in the murder. Wang was also jailed last year for covering up the crime.
The state prosecutor had said Bo should not be shown leniency as he had recanted admissions of guilt ahead of his trial.
Senior party figures feared Bo could stage a political comeback one day if he was not dealt a harsh sentence, sources told Reuters after the trial.
A light sentence could have undermined President Xi Jinping’s pledge to go after corrupt political heavyweights as harshly as those lower down the pecking order.
Bo cultivated a loyal following through his charisma and populist, quasi-Maoist policies, especially among those left out in the cold by China’s anything-for-growth economic policies.