East Asia Forum

The Trial of Bo Xilai and What it Means for the Rule of Law in China

It is an outstanding result for the trajectory of political reform in China that the country’s leadership decided to put Bo Xilai through the public legal process rather than handle the matter internally.

The decision to publicly reveal some of the criminal conduct of this charismatic and demagogic Communist Party leader is a testament to unity among the Chinese leadership — not evidence of a split. In fact, this decision is an important step toward gaining public confidence in political reforms and the rule of law.

Even before Bo was dismissed as party chief of Chongqing, Premier Wen Jiabao said that the leadership should use legal processes to deal with the Wang Lijun case. This is a positive development in the Chinese leadership’s attitude to the rule of law. China’s legal profession has become an important interest group in Chinese society in the years since the Tiananmen protests. Two hundred thousand registered lawyers now have a voice and many of them are calling for improved rule of law and constitutionalism. This call has grown louder in the wake of the Bo Xilai crisis.

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