Bo Xilai trial as blogged by the court - Day One


The court at which disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai is being tried has taken the unprecedented step of posting live updates of his trial on Sina weibo, one of China's Twitter-like microblogs.

Dozens of posts have been made by the Intermediate People's Court in Jinan, Shandong province, including pictures and partial transcripts.

The information made public is likely to be carefully chosen, but this is the story of Bo Xilai's trial as told through the microblog so far.

Introducing the courtroom

The court blog began its coverage by introducing the court's packed viewing gallery. There were 110 people present, among them five members of Mr Bo's family and two companions, 19 journalists and 84 people "from all walks of life".

After the legal teams sat down and the judge entered the courtroom, Bo Xilai was summoned.

The court briefly profiled him, giving his date of birth as 3 July 1949, providing details of his education and his stellar list of public postings.

The chairing judge, Justice Wang Xuguang, deputy head of the court, introduced himself and his two fellow judges and the legal teams, read Mr Bo's rights to him and kicked off proceedings.

Mr Bo was charged with receiving 21.79m yuan ($3.56m; £2.28m) in bribes from two businessmen in the city of Dalian, Xu Ming and Tang Xiaolin.

Prosecutors say Mr Bo took the bribes directly, or through his wife Gu Kailai and his son Bo Guagua. Analysts say this is the first time the younger Bo has been formally linked to the scandal.

In addition it is alleged that Mr Bo diverted an $800,000 payment to the city into personal funds with his wife's help.

The indictment also focuses on the abuse of power charges and makes the explicit link to the dramatic case of his wife, Gu Kailai, jailed last year for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.

It says Mr Bo "committed a series of power abuses, after the relevant personnel reported and exposed the intentional homicide case of Bogu Kailai".

The corruption charges relate to the alleged embezzlement of 5m yuan of public funds from the Dalian government in 2002.

The blog says defence lawyers and prosecutors cross-examined the evidence presented, but no details about this were immediately disclosed. Mr Bo himself later cross-examined Mr Xu, one of the men he is alleged to have received bribes from.

image captionIn the morning session the first images emerged from the trial

The blog posted its first pictures of Bo Xilai along with other images taken from inside the medium-sized, sober courtroom.

It shows a clean-shaven Bo standing in the dock without handcuffs, his hands crossed in front of him, and flanked by two policemen. He is wearing an open-necked white shirt.

In one of the pictures, Bo Xilai is seen sitting, and He Zhengsheng, the lawyer representing murdered Briton Neil Heywood's family is sitting in the front row, directly behind Mr Bo.

The court blog reproduces what could be the first terse exchanges between the judge and Bo Xilai.

Bo Xilai: I hope the judge will try this case fairly and justly according to the law of the country. Judge: Your wish has been understood. The court will be independent and follow the judicial process and try the case according to the law.

Then proceedings turn to the bribery accusations and when referring to one of the bribery charges set out against him, Mr Bo says that he admitted those charges against his will.

Analysts following the blog say this appears to be the first indication of Mr Bo taking a defiant stance and denying the charges set out against him.

"That Tang Xiaolin gave me three bribes - that did not happen. He asked me to help him sort out something, and these were all done according to procedure.

"I admitted against my will taking three bribes from Tang Xiaolin," he told the judge.

After lunch the trial becomes notably more heated, as the court's blog reproduces Mr Bo's angry reaction to the evidence against him.

The testimony (which runs to seven statements) of Tang Xiaolin - the businessman accused of bribing Bo Xilai - was transcribed and in this he admits bribing Mr Bo.

From the court's blog, Mr Bo is dismissive and he calls Tang Xiaolin, who was not in court, a "crazy dog snapping at things for reward", arguing that his evidence has no credibility because he is only trying to reduce his sentence.

Indeed Mr Bo called Tang Xiaolin's testimony "the ugly performance of a person selling his soul" - upon which the judge warns him not to make defamatory comments.

He still says the businessman's actions are a "blasphemy", an affront to the sanctity of the courtroom. Mr Bo also says he only admitted the bribery charges under pressure.

Some of Mr Bo's fiercest words are directed towards his wife Gu Kailai - prosecutors had provided the court with written testimony from her against her husband.

In her statement, she said she took money several times from safes at her homes in Dalian, Shenyang and Chongqing, safes which only Gu and Mr Bo could open. She said she took the money to the UK for her son's studies.

But her husband called her words "ridiculous", saying she could not prove the money she took had been from those safes and questioned whether she could even remember the amount she took.

The blog also cited Bo's lawyer as saying that Gu is "mentally unsound" and that her words cannot be trusted.

But, according to the court blog, the judge is not inclined to agree. He says that so many witnesses corroborate her claims - so the allegations must be true.

One of the biggest surprises of the first day was Mr Bo being given the chance to cross-examine key prosecution witness Xu Ming.

Mr Bo first rejects the charge that he accepted 20 million yuan in bribes from the Dalian businessman as "completely untrue", and says he "knew nothing" about a property owned by Gu Kailai near Nice in southern France, which Mr Xu admitted paying for.

"Gu Kailai, Xu Ming and Bo Guagua never filled me in on their dealings," the court blog quotes Mr Bo as saying.

Then he puts a series of questions to the businessman.

Bo Xilai: You said you supported Bo Guagua and you covered his expenses for airline tickets, credit cards and other things. Have you ever told me that? Xu Ming: No.

Bo Xilai: Have you ever told me about Africa, that you covered their expenses? [Referring to a trip Bo Guagua was said to have taken with friends that was allegedly funded by Xu Ming.] Xu Ming: No.

Bo Xilai: Thank you for being truthful. You bought Gu Kailai expensive items. You bought Bo Guagua luxury watches and have you ever told me that? Xu Ming: No.

Bo Xilai: You said that Bo Guagua and Gu Kailai spent millions every year while they were living overseas. Have you ever told me that? Xu Ming: No.

Bo Xilai: Have you ever told me about the property in Nice? Xu Ming: I mentioned [in my testimony] that I talked about it in your house at the dinner table and another time at the ministry of commerce. Bo Xilai: Apart from those two occasions? Xu Ming: No.

image captionVilla Fontaine St-Georges cost more than $3m, Xu Ming said

Earlier, Xu Ming's testimony gave more details about Fontaine Saint Georges, the villa Gu Kailai owned near Nice which was once managed by British businessman Neil Heywood.

Xu Ming: In 2000, Gu Kailai told me that she wanted to buy a villa in France, I gave her $3.23m. I also gave her money to cover travel and living costs. When her son [Bo Guagua] and his friend wanted to go to Africa, I gave him about 100,000 yuan. Gu Kailai approached me in October 2001 with Bo Guagua's credit card bill for about 300,000 yuan, I paid it.

In April 2011 Gu Kailai told me in her Chongqing residence that foreigners were not reliable, she needed to find some other person to manage Fontaine Saint Georges. Gu Kailai also called [city police chief] Wang Lijun, telling him to keep a good tab on her French friend Devillers, and not to let him leave China.

I said I have a good friend who was reliable and a British citizen [meaning Jiang Feng Dolby], we can just leave her to deal with the procedures.

Prosecutor: What did she mean by saying that foreigners are not reliable? Did she mean that it was a threat to her property? Xu Ming: I can't tell. We were talking over the phone and could not talk in details.

Rare details of Bo Xilai's marriage and his life since he was last seen in public 18 months ago also emerged in court.

"During the disciplinary hearings most members of the investigation team [from the central disciplinary committee of the Communist Party] were polite and rational, the living conditions were good, healthcare was good, most comrades were civilised and polite," Mr Bo said in one part of the transcript released by the court.

"But that does not dispel what I said about mental pressure. These pressures were real," he added, suggesting he was pressurised into confessing to taking bribes.

image captionMr Bo and Gu Kailai in more successful times

Late in the day a transcript was released in which Bo Xilai described his family set-up and relations with his wife, who it appears he rarely met. He says he could not have known about money given by Xu Ming - because he and Gu Kailai did not talk about such matters as they hardly saw each other.

"I believe Gu Kailai is a cultured person with taste, a modern intellectual woman. Each time she meets up with me we always talk about things that we have in common. But I only had limited contact with her. Before 2007, she was living overseas. During her rare visits back to China she spent only limited amounts of time with me.

"When we had so little time together it was impossible for us to talk about Xu Ming covering their travelling costs. Gu Kailai would never talk about something so vulgar in front of me. After 2008 I started my work in Chongqing and again we did not spend enough time together.

"It is not possible that she would have talked to me about such expenses during the limited time we spent together. Xu Ming was Gu Kailai's friend and not mine."

The court released a few more details of the trial late on Thursday evening. In those closing sessions the defence lawyer read out from a previous statement from businessman Xu Ming in which he revealed that he had been approached by now-jailed police chief of Chongqing Wang Lijun on 27 January 2012 to ask Bo Xilai to rein in Gu Kailai, and ask her to be less intimidating.

The implication is that her behaviour had got out of hand. Xu Ming says he did not approach Bo Xilai but the defence lawyer referred him to his statement in which he said he had been warned by Wang Lijun that if Bo Xilai wasn't approached, something "shocking and explosive would happen and it would be impossible to control".

Then the defence lawyer reads out from Xu Ming's statement in which what appears to be the the first mention of Neil Heywood's murder is made:

"On 28 January 2012 in the evening, Wang Lijun returned to his office after talking to Bo Xilai. I (Xu Ming) went to Wang Lijun's office. I sensed that Wang Lijun was very excited, he said that he told Bo Xilai about four crimes committed by Gu Kailai, including the murder of Neil Heywood and said everyone who took part in the investigation of Neil Heywood's death would have to resign... He felt he had a good talk with Bo Xilai. I felt Wang Lijun was threatening Bo Xilai."

It was reportedly days later that Wang Lijun was sacked by Bo Xilai and on 6 February he entered the US consulate in Beijing precipitating the series of events that brought about Bo Xilai's downfall.