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Gang boss gets life in jail in southwest China trial

Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai looks on during a meeting at the annual session of China's parliament, the National People's Congress, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, March 6, 2010. REUTERS/Jason Lee/Files

BEIJING (Reuters) - A crime boss was sentenced to life in jail in Chongqing, a city in southwest China where the flamboyant party secretary is using a crackdown on organised crime to boost his political fortunes.

Chongqing’s party secretary Bo Xilai launched the crackdown last year, gaining a burst of publicity and popularity nationwide, in what some analysts saw as a bid to join the nation’s top political body during the 2012 leadership transition.

The life sentence for Wang Xiaojun, accused of running brothels and online gambling, comes shortly before the expected sentencing of the city’s former justice chief and deputy police director, Wen Qiang.

The court found that Wang had bribed four police officers, including Wen, who served under Bo’s predecessor, and political rival Wang Yang, an ally of Chinese president Hu Jintao who is currently party secretary of Guangdong Province in the south.

Although Bo’s crackdown has garnered support from a Chinese public tired of police corruption, it has also raised alarm from Beijing’s legal community, who complain the crackdown was turning into a series of political show trials.

Opposition from reformers hardened after a lawyer for one of the defendants was jailed for manufacturing evidence, after he advising his client to testify he had been tortured in custody.

Reporting by Lucy Hornby; Editing by David Fox