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For China's Leaders, the Bo Xilai Problem Has Not Gone Away

Author: Jerome A. Cohen, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Asia Studies
October 1, 2013
South China Morning Post


Will Bo Xilai's appeal against his recent criminal conviction and life sentence make another contribution to the legal education of the Chinese people? Bo's trial offered hundreds of millions of his countrymen their first vivid glimpse of how an accused criminal might actively defend himself in court, instead of meekly complying with the usual ritual of confession and apology in an effort to obtain a lenient sentence.

Although the legal systems of all countries often treat compliant defendants more favourably than others, the People's Republic, from its establishment, made "leniency for those who confess, severity for those who resist" the cornerstone of its criminal justice practice. Yet, at his trial, Bo defiantly insisted on his statutory right to challenge the prosecution's charges and confront the witnesses against him.

Surprisingly, his former colleagues in the Communist Party leadership, contrary to China's custom, actually permitted several prosecution witnesses not only to appear in court, but also to be subjected to defence cross-examination.

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