Bo in fighting mood as graft trial begins

Corruption trial of former rising star of Communist Party likely to end today

Bo Xilai stands on trial at the court in eastern China’s Shandong province on Thursday. Photograph: AP/Jinan Intermediate People’s Court

Bo Xilai stands on trial at the court in eastern China’s Shandong province on Thursday. Photograph: AP/Jinan Intermediate People’s Court


Bo Xilai, the purged one-time rising star of the Chinese Communist Party, struck a combative note on the first day of his trial in the eastern city of Jinan, saying he was framed on graft charges and made to confess.

The former Chongqing party boss, making his first public appearance since April last year, has been charged with taking nearly 27 million yuan (€3.32 million) in illegal payments from two prominent businessmen, Xu Ming and Tang Xiaolin. He is also accused of corruption and abuse of power and will almost certainly be found guilty.

The court said he received the bribes with his wife, Gu Kailai, who was convicted of the November 2011 murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, and their son Bo Guagua, who is studying law at Columbia University in the US.

It was the first time that authorities had named the younger Bo in the case against his father.

However few had expecting him to come out fighting.

He described Dalian businessman Tang Xiaolin as a “mad dog” whose evidence was “blasphemous , the ugly performance of a person selling his soul”.

“Regarding the matter of Tang Xiaolin giving me money three times, I once admitted it against my will under great pressure during the Central Discipline Inspection Commission’s investigation against me,” Mr Bo (64) told the court.

“I am willing to bear the legal responsibilities, but at that time I did not know the circumstances of these matters, my mind was a blank.”

During his time as party boss in Chongqing, Mr Bo pursued a series of social programmes which were seen as harkening back to the era of chairman Mao Zedong, putting him on a collision course with the more capitalist, reformist approach espoused by the Beijing leadership.

The decision to purge Mr Bo exposed rifts within the ruling party as well as Chinese society. His trial marks the biggest political scandal since the 1976 downfall of the Gang of Four at the end of the Cultural Revolution.

President Xi Jinping is keen to underline support for his economic reforms; the leadership will want to limit any fallout from this scandal and to finish the trial as quickly as possible.

Suspended death sentence
His wife Gu Kailai, who was given a suspended death sentence for poisoning Mr Heywood and who is widely believed to have made a deal to protect the couple’s son, testified that the bribe money went towards their son’s education in Harrow and Oxford, and other expenses in Britain. Mr Bo described her testimony as “absurd” and “laughable”. Wearing a white, open- necked shirt, he looked considerably healthier than Ms Gu had during her trial last year, but the swagger was definitely gone.

Mr Bo said he had relatively little to do with his wife after 2007 when they moved to Chongqing and that he was not aware of her business dealings.

Some observers speculated that the lively court action was aimed at showing that Bo Xilai was indeed getting a fair trial, but that the background was that he had struck a deal in exchange for a pre-arranged sentence.

Mr Bo’s trial is due to end today and the verdict is likely to announced in early September, state broadcaster CCTV reported earlier.