Bo Xilai Guilty: China's Huge Corruption Trial, Explained

A Chinese court has found disgraced politician Bo Xilai guilty on all charges of embezzlement, bribery, and abuse of power on Sunday, bringing an end to a trial that has gripped the entire country. Mr. Bo was handed down a sentence of life in prison for bribe taking, along with 15 years for embezzlement and seven years for abuse of power.

Bo’s downfall from party chief of the city of Chongqing started when his wife Gu Kailai was accused of murdering British businessman, Neil Heywood. The case immediately fell under the glare of the international media as Gu’s accuser, the former police chief of Chongqing, made his accusations after seeking refuge in an American consulate. Gu has already been found guilty of Heywood’s murder and has been given a suspended death sentence. 

Bo has been accused of interfering in the investigation against Gu and of further corruption involving bribes worth the equivalent of millions of dollars. The details released in the trial also revealed the kind of luxury which leading Chinese politicians and their families regularly enjoy. 

This trial was heralded as a new era of openness for Chinese courts, as transcripts were released on Weibo, and Bo was allowed defend himself vigorously. However, the court system remains firmly under the control of the Chinese government.

Bo recently wrote a defiant letter to his family, in which he indicated he was anticipating a guilty verdict, but cited his revolutionary veteran father as inspiration. "Dad has been imprisoned many times in life, and I will set him as my example!" Bo wrote. His father Bo Yibo, was also imprisoned many times before he rose to become China’s vice premier.

The crackdown on corruption in China began in January, when Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), vowed, "We must have the resolution to fight every corrupt phenomenon, punish every corrupt official and constantly eradicate the soil which breeds corruption, so as to earn people's trust with actual results."

However, some say officials are just taking their luxury lifestyles underground, so it remains to be seen whether the corruption clampdown will have a long-term impact.

Stay tuned for the next big Chinese anti-corruption trial: Zhou Yongkang, the former chief of security and intelligence, may be the next figure to fall from political grace.