A foreign diplomat with access to senior Chinese leaders said he had been told that Bo’s case would be handled soon, before the 18th party congress convenes this fall to settle on the country’s new leadership team.
Bo has been the target of wide-ranging corruption allegations since his wife, Gu Kailai, and a household aide were arrested on suspicion of killing a British businessman, Neil Heywood. Bo has not been accused in Heywood’s death, but his downfall has focused attention on questionable dealings involving one of China’s most powerful families, including allegations that Bo family members used their political connections to secure lucrative business deals and prime positions.
In the past, the party has typically used corruption cases to bring down some powerful and prominent officials, including former Beijing mayor Chen Xitong, who lost out in a power struggle and was jailed on embezzlement charges in 1995, and former Shanghai mayor Chen Liangyu, who was fired in 2006 and sentenced to prison two years later after being convicted of misusing local pension funds. Chen Liangyu is thought to have fallen afoul of President Hu Jintao.
Bo’s elder brother, Bo Xiyong — who also goes by the name Li Xueming — served as a director and vice chairman of China Everbright International, an alternative-energy company listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, and reportedly earned millions in stock options before stepping down in April. A younger brother, Bo Xicheng, a director of several state-owned firms, has been involved in lucrative investments in Dalian, where Bo Xilai served as mayor. And two of Gu’s sisters are widely reported to have financial holdings worth more than $100 million through a web of business ventures stretching from Shenzhen to the British Virgin Islands.
But the behavior of Bo Xilai — and his family — was quite typical for a high-ranking member of the ruling party’s Politburo, analysts and others said. And prosecuting Bo on corruption charges would only expose the depth of the problem and the flaws in the party’s self-policing system.
“The fact is, so many leaders are corrupt — it’s a widely pervasive phenomenon,” said Cheng Li, a scholar with the Brookings Institution in Washington and an expert on China’s leadership. “The media — the Chinese and foreign media — will continue to go after corruption. The public will still talk about corruption.” But for the party, he said, “the emphasis will be on the other, criminal things.” He said Gu could face corruption charges — but not before the party congress.