Chinese authorities are seeking to whitewash the alleged crimes of former Chongqing party head Bo Xilai (薄熙來) and protect his political backers by shifting the blame to his wife, who will be tried for murder, activists say.
In the biggest political scandal to hit China in decades, Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai (谷開來), has been charged with homicide over the death of British business associate Neil Heywood in November.
The evidence against her is “irrefutable and substantial,” state media said last week, indicating the authorities are intent on settling the case as soon as possible.
However, observers said it was much less clear whether wider corruption allegations against Bo would ever be examined in a court of law.
Bo, the son of a revered Communist revolutionary, won national fame with a draconian crackdown on criminal elements and a Maoist-style “red revival” campaign in Chongqing when he was Chinese Communist Party (CCP) party secretary for the city.
His fall from grace began when his former right-hand man, police chief Wang Lijun (王立軍), fled to a US consulate to seek asylum, after reportedly confronting Bo with information related to Heywood’s murder.
Bo’s rapid downfall was hugely embarrassing for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and exposed deep divisions at its top level.
Analysts and political activists say the party will be keen to see the back of the scandal and neutralize the risk it could pose to other senior figures, before a once-in-a-decade leadership transition due in the autumn.
While Bo is being probed for corruption, observers say that Gu’s impending trial will now take up the limelight.
“It is the same old thing, they are continuing to cover things up,” said former top CCP leader Bao Tong (鮑彤), who was purged in 1989 for his role in the Tiananmen democracy protests.
“They will put on a political farce, a fake show, and then when another scandal erupts, they do it all over again,” the 79-year-old said.
There is speculation that the case could go to court as soon as early next month, but no date has been confirmed.
“Right now there is a lot that we don’t know, because there has been no transparency in the case ... and there are a lot of things [the party] does not want people to know about,” prominent rights activist Hu Jia (胡佳) said.
“If there is a political struggle inside the party, then they will become even more closed and non-transparent. They won’t reach a decision through the judiciary, but it will be a party decision based on political considerations,” he added.
Hu said the party’s powerful Politics and Law Commission, along with top leaders, including Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), will likely decide the fates of Bo and Gu.