Rumours swirl around Bo Xilai trial

Official outside Guiyang court, China (28 Jan 2012) Dozens of journalists refused to believe court officials who said there was no trial

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The trial of the sacked former senior Communist Party official Bo Xilai is not expected to begin before March, according to a Communist Party-controlled paper in China.

The English-language tabloid the Global Times - which is published by the party's official mouthpiece, the People's Daily - said the trial "is expected to open after the 'two sessions' in March", sourcing the claim to someone close to the country's "top judicial body".

That means the trial, China's most high-profile one in years, may not happen until after the annual meetings of the National People's Congress, the NPC - China's rubber stamp legislature - and its counterpart, the advisory body the CPPCC. The meetings are when China's new Communist Party leader Xi Jinping will officially be installed as president, taking over as head of state, and so when China's once-in-a-decade transfer of power will be complete.

But, on Friday, we'd heard exactly the opposite, from another Beijing-backed paper, Hong Kong's Ta Kung Pao.

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It's a measure of how little confidence many have in the pronouncements of Chinese officials that so many journalists made the trek to Guiyang”

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It, too, had reported, based on sources, that the trial would begin today (Monday) in south-western China. That set the rumour mill swirling.

The Chinese Law Professor Blog was among those trying to get to the bottom of it.

Bo Xilai's impending appearance has been called "China's trial of the century", and some say it's the most important legal event in China since the "Gang of Four" were tried in 1981, after their power waned following Chairman Mao's death.

So, naturally, Ta Kung Pao's claim caused a stir. On the strength of it several dozen journalists, from international and Hong Kong media groups, travelled almost 1,500 miles from Beijing to the city of Guiyang over the weekend, a three-hour flight, just in case.

'Trial of the century'

You can see what happened early this morning here. The reporters gathered outside the court, surrounded an official who came to say there was no trial, and wouldn't leave until a formal press conference was held to confirm there really was no trial happening.

Ta Kung Pao even reported on the effect of its own report.

Bo Xilai (file image) Bo Xilai's downfall triggered a political crisis in China

So far, so farcical. The court officials in Guiyang had spent all day on Friday fielding phone calls from anxious reporters, and consistently denied they knew anything about the trial.

On Monday, they told reporters that "if the next step is to hold the Bo Xilai trial in Guiyang's court, then, as according to the rules we will inform our media friends promptly".

The Global Times' source on Monday said "the date and location of the trial will certainly be made public in advance, it's unnecessary to make speculations".

But it's a measure of how little confidence many have in the pronouncements of Chinese officials that so many journalists made the trek to Guiyang, anxious the "trial of the century" may be about to happen, and fearing it was possible it could start without China telling anyone.

Bo Xilai was one of the rising stars of Chinese politics - charismatic, populist, ambitious, with an impeccable communist pedigree as the son of a revolutionary leader. His downfall and arrest last year came after he fell out with Xi Jinping and other leaders. It caused a political crisis just ahead of the leadership transition.

He is now accused of massive corruption, abuse of power and having many mistresses. He was brought down last year after his former deputy, Wang Lijun, fled to the US consulate in Chengdu, told diplomats that Mr Bo's wife Gu Kailai had killed the British businessman Neil Heywood, and Bo had tried to cover it up. Gu Kailai and Wang Lijun have both already stood trial and been convicted.

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It's a dilemma for China's leaders, just how open to be about the trial, just how much detail to divulge about corruption among Party leaders”

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Now no-one wants to miss the main event, Bo's own trial, because this is a story that brings together corruption, sex, money, murder and power struggles at the very top of China's secretive Communist Party-controlled state. It's a glimpse into the world of China's elite that we rarely see.

How the trial is handled will be a test for Xi Jinping and China's new leaders. They are anxious to show that this is an example of how China's authoritarian, one-party system can be trusted, by China's people, to deal with corruption and abuse of power. It's in their interest to ensure the procedures look transparent and impartial, so they can say that China is a nation with the rule of law, and corruption at the top is limited to just a few bad apples.

However, few in China are under any illusions that the trial is highly political and highly sensitive, and that the courts are subordinate to the Communist Party. There are many aspects of the case that the Party may not want aired openly. Bo Xilai has been held in secret. He has had no chance to defend himself against the accusations and may not get a chance during his trial.

Above all Mr Bo was popular. He said his policies were all about social justice, claiming he was cleaning up corruption, cracking down on dodgy officials in league with gangsters. He spent huge amounts on projects like subsidised housing, saying he wanted to narrow the growing gap between rich and poor.

His policies struck a chord and he had many followers. Some still don't believe he too was corrupt and apt to ride roughshod over the law. A small group even turned up outside the court in Guiyang today and unfurled a banner saying "Secretary Bo, corrupt and incompetent officials envy you, the people love you". So it's a dilemma for China's leaders, just how open to be about the trial, just how much detail to divulge about corruption among Party leaders, and just how harsh to be with Bo Xilai.

As for us journalists, we might be told when the trial is happening. But even if we are it's highly unlikely we'll be allowed inside to watch it happen up close - that may be a step too far.

Damian Grammaticas Article written by Damian Grammaticas Damian Grammaticas China correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Chinese don't pay car loans & mortgages with pride in culture & "achievements" & such nonsense, rocket science outlook you alluded to is pertinent only to student activists & windbags.

    One thing all Chinese won't suffer is to be a sub-colony again, or have a squadron obliterated by one Nemesis ship, or forced to concede to any foreign demands to which you're so keen on.

    50 years behind & technology imported? So what? Obviously you're not in that field else you'd met a host of nationalities. What's your contribution or cut from western advancement? What's it got to do with political scandal?

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    I can understand people who have pride in China's considerable accomplishments wouldn't want to believe China is not in the forefront of industry, technology, science, economy, etc. Reality is the popular media image is badly distorted.For example, China's putting a man in orbit is something the US and USSR did 50 years ago.Much of China's technology was transferred or stolen.China's high speed train crashed.Most technology is imported.Many US patents but how many that are really innovative.Not many.Shiny new big buildings but poorly built by corrupt contractors.A facade.Better but not good.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.


    China "power" related blogs is a great place to paraphrase movie lines from the Blues Brothers, towards mighty US & Euro patriots:'re out, you're free...what's happening? what you gonna do? the money you owe us...?

    Yeah sure, countless Chinese with aspirations for education, money & learning piano is dependent upon your incessantly twisted racist rants. Have you even BEEN to China or know any Chinaman?

    Scam? we're all in on it: Fed Reserve, Iraq, Lehman, Greece, BAE, Canary wharf flats.. ad nauseum.

    Chinese worldwide is moving ahead.

    Relax, watch Blues Brothers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    China is a paper tiger.The real danger is that it believes it own scam.It's trying to punch far above its weight.It's becoming a nuissance and a danger to its neighbors.Will it lead to confrontation with the US?It could. Over North Korea, Japan, Taiwan, even the Phillipines.It's flexing muscles it doesn't have.If it goes to far, the US could whack it.In a confrontation with Japan the US may have no choice.We have a mutual defense treaty.US keeps the peace in East Asia.We should charge them all for it.The alternative is a nuclear armed Japan.A frightful prospect to the rest of Asia.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    21"The CCP take great pains to deal with publicised corruption cases swiftly"

    The occasional show trial and show event like the Olympics are put ons for an audience.Domestically it pretends there is justice in China justifying the cruelest dictatorship.Internationally it pretends foreign investment will play on a level field.In truth local communist parties are fiefdoms just as Europe had in Mideavil times.Foreign investors can buy off anyone.You want land for development, the local party will just steal it for you for a bribe.The victims get little or no compensation.Farms are disappearing

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Sent Bo to Canada and we will give him a real trail.

    We will spend 5 years and tens of millions of $dollars on the trail and then some.

    After we are finished with Bo, he will get a big smack or a slap on the wrist and some huge $100,000.00 fines, and then he will by banned from any public office jobs.

    Now that is justice in the west, not like what the Chinese commies have there in them corrupt courts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    China's political class has benefitted hugely as the economy has opened up. Corruption is rife in the Communist Party and there are many such Bo Xilais amongst the most powerful in China. Bo was tripped at the final hurdle to the Poliburo as he tried to be a popular rising star, more like a rock star of Chinese politics, instead of maintaining a low profile like Jiang Zemin and his protege Xi Jinping. Bo Xilai made the present leadership nervous - that is why he got exposed and not because he was the only corrupt politician in Chinese politics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    In Mao's time he would have been beheaded the next day after a fast public trial of shame and confession. My guess is that the Chinese political aparatus does not want to set too much of a precedent in punishing its own leaders. The appearance of justice will suffice. As to personal consequences of his acts that's another story. They are in effect putting on trial themselves and they know it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    If this happened in Britain to a government cabinet minister there would be cover up, MI5 will be involved, press blackout and whistleblowers being assasinated.Look what happen to David Kelly for exposing UK and US for sexing up the Iraq War. Anyone who knows too much that could undermine government lies in Britain and USA get silenced up very quickly. They tried to get Julian Assange and smeared his image for willing to expose Western lies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Very little about this is publicly confirmed.

    However, there is no advantage to the party for letting it drag on. The CCP take great pains to deal with publicised corruption cases swiftly and say "everything figured out, lessons learned, bad guy admitted guilt, nothing left to say". Then they stick to the official version whatever comes out later. The fact that they haven't started yet shows that something is stopping them.

    My guess is that Bo, unlike Mr Wang and the Gang of Four, is refusing to give them the show trial they want and the various top interests can't agree how to proceed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Corruption in the Emerald isleand the European Community is swept under the carpet.

    Further details by searching in Google for 'Windle stops swindle'


    A Common Informer

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Who cares?

    The burning Rome like west and the western news media cares, that's who.

    And Bo didn't even get a Nobel Prize, thanks for nothing Damian.

  • Comment number 18.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    10"Oh yes, China not the greatest ..etc. So what? You think they care?"

    They will when their expectations aren't met.Lots of people thought they were on the path to the garden of Eden until they found themselves actually being on the road to hell.They traded constant famines for being the world's biggest toxic waste dump and lowest cost unskilled unprotected labor pool.There aren't enough resources in the whole world to get all of them out of poverty.The export markets they depend on are bankrupt.They have more problems than you can count.Longterm, it's a bleak outlook.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    bring back bo

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Who cares?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Remember before Bo Xilai's fall from grace he was touted by western media including the BBC as "the closest thing China has to a western politician" which implys that Bo, according to the West, was considered a great hope for Chinese political future. The West could not be more wrong. Perhaps western politicians are indeed like Bo Xilai.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Chain of events: Wang Lijun, Police Chief, Chongqing (& ally to Bo), entered US Consulate in Chengdu Feb.,2012. Details of Wang’s negotiations with AMERICANS are NOT known. Known is that Wang told them Bo Xilai & wife GuKailai were behind the death of Neil Heywood (dead in a hotel Nov.,2011). Wang alleged Heywood was key to Bo Family money laundering. When Heywood threatened, he was killed. In August, GuKailai was given suspended death sentence. Bo is awaiting his trial. (Chinese forensic specialist - there is NO convincing evidence to prove cause of Heywood's death.)

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Bo’s possible election to Politburo Standing Committee, 18th Congress might have been a great step for his group. By destroying the political career of Bo Xilai, CCP’s centrist & right-wing sections, which are closer to NEOLIBERALISM than Bo faction, have prevented this outcome & advanced their position. But Chinese left’s unwavering support for Bo Xilai & criticism of current party leadership demonstrates current political divisions within the CCP. For this reason, it is necessary to follow the CCP’s 18th Congress & subsequent developments in China very closely.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.


    Very true. No doubt you'll be flamed and downvoted by the CCP funded trolls, but they and their masters' time is fast drawing to a conclusion. The truth is an unpopular concept: reach for that down arrow, and click it double for me amigos ;)


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