JINAN, China — China charged disgraced senior politician Bo Xilai with bribery, abuse of power and corruption on Thursday, paving the way for a trial that is seen by many as a test for legal reform and President Xi Jinping’s commitment to combat corruption.
Prosecutors in the eastern city of Jinan in Shandong province indicted Bo, state news agency Xinhua said, meaning the trial will take place there.
About two dozen uniformed and plainclothes police officers hovered around the gates of the main courthouse in Jinan, but there were no signs that the trial was imminent.
Xi, who formally took power in March, will be eager to put the Bo scandal behind him and keep the party united as he embarks on an ambitious rebalancing of the world’s second-largest economy and cracks down on corruption among senior officials.
Bo’s lawyers, Li Guifang and Wang Zhaofeng, did not answer calls to their mobile phones. Government and court officials in Jinan could not be reached for comment.
Xinhua did not say when Bo’s trial will start. But according to Chinese law, charges must be served to the defendant and his or her lawyers at least 10 days before a trial begins.
Bo, as a civil servant, took advantage of his position to seek profits for others and accepted an “extremely large amount” of money and properties, Xinhua quoted the indictment paper as saying.
Bo also embezzled a huge amount of public money and abused his power, seriously harming the interests of the state and people, the report said.
Bo had committed serious crimes and will be indicted on the charges of bribery, embezzlement and power abuse, Xinhua quoted the indictment as saying. Bo had been informed of his legal rights and interviewed by prosecutors, it said.
Bo has been accused of receiving more than 20 million yuan (US$3.26 million) in bribes and embezzling another 5 million yuan, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reported on Wednesday.
After his appointment as party chief of the southern metropolis of Chongqing in 2007, Bo, a former commerce minister, turned it into a showcase of revolution-inspired “red” culture and his policies for egalitarian, state-led growth. He also won national attention with a crackdown on organized crime.
His brash self-promotion irked some leaders. But his populist ways and crime clean-up were welcomed by many of Chongqing’s 30 million residents, as well as others who hoped that Bo could take his leftist-shaded policies nationwide.
Bo’s likely trial could renew the debate. However, China’s party-run courts rarely find in favor of defendants, especially in politically sensitive cases.
Nevertheless, China’s censors appear to have temporarily lifted the ban on Bo’s name on the country’s Twitter-like microblogs. Searches for his name were blocked earlier in the week, as they had been for many months.
Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, and his former police chief, Wang Lijun, have both been jailed over the scandal stemming from the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.
The government in September last year accused Bo of corruption and of bending the law to hush up that murder.
Additional reporting by Sui-Lee Wee, Hui Li and Ben Blanchard.