Jinan, China — China’s most politically-charged trial in decades is underway, with the once-powerful and charismatic former Chongqing Communist Party leader Bo Xilai facing charges of accepting bribes, corruption and abuse of power.
Mr. Bo denied one of the bribery allegations against him as the trial began in Jinan.
Just two years ago he was considered a candidate for promotion to the Politburo Standing Committee, the seven-member top decision-making body in China.
But as China’s Communist Party prepared for its once-in-a-decade leadership handover in February 2012, questions arose over the death of Neil Heywood, a British businessman.
Gu Kailai, the wife of Mr. Bo, has since been convicted of Mr. Heywood’s murder. State media says she committed the crime because of differences over a business deal.
Mr. Bo is also widely expected to be found guilty on the multiple charges he faces. The abuse of power charge is related to his wife’s role in the murder of Mr. Heywood.
The Communist Party intends to use the trial to show that no politician, no matter how powerful, is above the law. But Mr. Bo’s supporters say the trial is nothing more than a political purge.
Mr. Bo’s downfall is seen as the biggest political shake-up in China in decades.
Heavy security surrounds the court house, with a large police presence and the roads cordoned off. A large convoy of vehicles arrived at 8:00 with Mr. Bo believed to be in one of them. The first day of the trial was the first time Mr. Bo has been seen in public in 18 months.
The Communist Party seems determined that everything goes according to script, and is tweeting out transcripts of the trial in an apparent attempt at transparency. But anything sensitive is expected to be edited out.
Foreign journalists are not allowed in the courtroom. According to reports, five of Mr. Bo’s relatives, 19 Chinese reporters, and 84 others were allowed in. In the courtroom, Mr. Bo reportedly said, “I hope the judge will try this case fairly and justly according to the law of the country.”
A few Bo supporters shouted slogans outside the courthouse before being wisked away by authorities.
During his time in power, the 64-year-old Bo led two high-profile campaigns – a drive to promote old Chinese communist values and a large-scale crackdown on crime. But he was viewed as controversial by top party leaders and his ambition earned him enemies.
Much discussion is taking place on China’s social media regarding the trial. Many view the trial as merely a political show, with the outcome already decided. But much of the public also believes there may be at least some truth to the corruption and abuse of power charges.
A verdict is expected in early September. Image/AP