Chinese official hints at severe punishment for Bo Xilai



Beijing: Disgraced Chinese Communist Party leader, Bo Xilai, facing a host of charges may get "severe punishment", a Chinese official said on Friday amid speculation that his trial may begin next week.

"We have always had severe punishment for corrupt officials," Li Jingtian, the executive vice president of China's Central Party School and a former member of the party's powerful Central Committee told Wall Street Journal on the sidelines of World Economic Forum in Davos today in response to a question on the fate of Bo.

While answering the question Li cited the examples of former Chinese leaders Liu Qingshan and Zhang Zishan, who were executed in the 1950s following accusations of embezzlement and indiscipline during Party's first anti-corruption campaign soon after it took power in 1949.

Li, also cited the case of Cheng Kejie, a former top legislator who was executed in 2000 and Chen Xitong, a former party chief of Beijing convicted on corruption charges in 1998 but released from prison on medical parole in 2006.

He also named Chen Liangyu, the former party secretary of Shanghai who was dismissed in 2006 and later sentenced to 18 years in prison on corruption charges.

Bo's wife Gu Kailai has already been given a suspended death sentence in the murder case of a British national last year and he is also expected to get a lengthy prison term.

A princeling, 63-year-old Bo, a former Commerce Minister came to prominence with his campaigns against criminal gangs in Chongqing city which he headed as the party boss until his removal last year.

His downfall started after his close associate and local police official Wang Lijung gatecrashed into the American Consulate in Chengdu and sought asylum.

He wanted to defect because he feared that Bo was angry with him for investigating Gu's role in the murder of British national Neil Heywood.

Wang was sentenced to 15 years in prison last year. Besides charges of shielding the crimes of his wife, Bo faced a host of charges including sex, sleaze and corruption.

Meanwhile, a court in Guizhou province has denied reports that Bo's trial may begin in its chamber on Monday.

A court official has denied report carried by Chinese newspaper Ta Kung Pao. China has thrown a veil of official secrecy over Bo's fate, with the latest brief announcement earlier this month simply confirming that he had been handed over to the courts.

That has prompted a wave of rumours, mostly spread by overseas Chinese websites, about when and where the trial will be.

Before his downfall, Bo who tried to resurrect the revolutionary fervour during Mao Zedong's era, was a contender for top leadership slots in the last November elections of the Party.

Moderate leader, Xi Jinping was elected along with a new team of leaders committed to carry on the reform process.

PTI