China: Politician Bo Xilai sentenced to life in prison for corruption

KBo XIlai's conviction will come as a huge blow to his many supporters in Jinan province (Reuters)

A Chinese court convicted Bo Xilai of corruption Sunday and gave him a stern sentence of life in prison, capping a 20-month scandal that derailed one of China's most up-and-coming politicians while exposing a murder and illicit enrichment among the country's elite.

The former Politburo member and Chongqing city party leader was convicted of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power in a case set in motion by his wife's poisoning of a British business associate, but also widely regarded in China as a prosecution that was carried forward because the charismatic populist had lost support among top leaders.

In a marked departure from other recent politically charged trials, which are typically understood to be closely choreographed proceedings, Bo launched an unusually vigorous defense during his trial last month. He denied all charges and blamed the corruption on others in his inner circle, thus forgoing the opportunity to earn leniency as is customarily given in Chinese courts when a defendant expresses contrition.

Bo also became the highest-level politician convicted for corruption under China's leader Xi Jinping, who has staked his reputation on combatting graft within the Communist Party.

``I think the point is that Xi wanted to punish Bo Xilai for daring to go against the party's arrangements,'' said Willy Lam, an expert on party politics at Chinese University in Hong Kong. "He was punished for his disobedience and defiance.''

According to details of Sunday's proceedings released by the court in Twitter-like posts, Bo was escorted into the courtroom by marshals and stood to listen as the judge read out the lengthy verdict. He had crew-cut hair and wore a white shirt and black pants.

The court sentenced Bo to life in prison on the bribery charges, 15 years for embezzlement and seven years for abuse of power.

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