China court rejects Bo Xilai appeal, upholds life sentence

Then politician Bo Xilai pauses as he attends a plenary meeting of China's parliament, the National People's Congress, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 10, 2011. Bo saw his appeal against a life sentence rejected on Friday morning
Then politician Bo Xilai pauses as he attends a plenary meeting of China's parliament, the National People's Congress, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 10, 2011. Bo saw his appeal against a life sentence rejected on Friday morning at a court in Jinan City, eastern Shandong province. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS  

Former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai saw his appeal against a life sentence rejected on Friday morning at a court in Jinan City, eastern Shandong province.

The Shandong Higher People's Court upheld the verdict passed last month by an intermediate court in Shandong, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The former political high-flyer had been given life imprisonment last month after he was found guilty of embezzlement, taking bribes and abuse of power.

Observers had earlier said that Bo had "zero chance" of overturning the verdict.

"There is almost a zero chance of success in his appeal. After all, many believe that his punishment was not determined independently by the courts but by the top leadership," Wuhan University law professor Qin Qianhong had told The Straits Times earlier this month.

Bo can still petition the Supreme Court but this is unlikely to change the guilty verdict, said observers.

The 64-year-old political blueblood had once been fancied for promotion into China's apex Politburo Standing Committee but was ousted from power in March last year after his former police chief Wang Lijun fled to the US Consulate in Chengdu, Sichuan province.

He was later accused of covering up Wang's attempted defection and the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood by his wife Gu Kailai, who was been given a suspended death penalty for her crime last year.

While Bo's appeal did not lighten his sentence as most expected, it helped bring the spotlight on the ambitious politician once more. About 50 reporters were seen outside the Higher Court in Shandong, the South China Morning Post reported.

hoaili@sph.com.sg