While it was clear that his political career was done, there remained wide division of opinion in China-watching circles about whether Bo, long seen as party royalty here, would ever appear in a courtroom.
Friday’s announcement suggests that officials had been building momentum against Bo through the earlier trial of his wife, Gu Kailai, in August and then the former police chief, Wang Lijun, last week. While Gu received a death sentence likely to be converted to a lengthy prison term, eyebrows were raised by Wang’s relatively light punishment of 15 years after being found guilty on charges involving defection, abuse of power and taking bribes.
In describing Wang’s trial, Xinhua recounted an alleged incident in which Bo slapped Wang in January after being confronted by accusations of his wife’s involvement in the death in November of Briton Neil Heywood in a Chongqing hotel room. The item did not name Bo, but it made his identity clear by listing his position, a public mention that suggested authorities were now turning their attention to him.
Xinhua also reported that Wang had “produced important clues that exposed serious offenses committed by others and played a key part in the investigation of the cases, which could be considered as major meritorious service.” That language now appears almost certainly to have referred to the prosecution of Bo.
“Bo abused his power, made severe mistakes and bore major responsibility in the Wang Lijun incident and the intentional homicide case” involving his wife, said the Xinhua report on Friday.
Xinhua released the news on a Friday evening before a weeklong national holiday in which many Chinese will be traveling. About an hour later, the article’s content was scrolled across the screen and read out loud, word for word, on state television by a monotone male voice.
Researcher Joyce Zhang contributed from Beijing.