DISGRACED politician Bo Xilai launched a fiery defence in the most high-profile political trial China has seen in decades.
The former rising star insisted he was framed and only admitted to bribery charges under psychological pressure during interrogation.
The 64-year-old former Communist Party chief of the south-western city of Chongqing has been charged with illegally taking almost 27 million yuan (£2.8 million), corruption and abuse of power and will almost certainly be found guilty.
Bo’s denial of the charges and strong language, as he made his first public appearance since being ousted early last year, were unexpected.
But observers said he may have agreed to choreographed proceedings that would show certain authorities in an impartial light in exchange for a prearranged sentence.
President Xi Jinping is seeking unstinted support from the party as he seeks to push through reforms, which he hopes will rebalance the economy. He will want Bo’s trial to be finished quickly and with a minimum of fuss.
“He (Bo) is clearly going along with this trial,” said Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch.
“The outcome has been already decided. There’s probably an agreement already between Bo and the party as to what the outcome will be.”
Bo’s downfall has pitted supporters of his Maoist-themed egalitarian social programmes against the capitalist-leaning economic road taken by the leadership in Beijing, exposing divisions within the ruling party as well as Chinese society.
Bo was one of China’s rising political stars and his trial in the eastern city of Jinan marks the culmination of the country’s biggest political scandal since the 1976 downfall of the Gang of Four at the end of the Cultural Revolution.
Television pictures showed a sombre-looking, clean-shaven Bo, whose hair looked like it was still dyed black, in the dock without handcuffs.
Foreign media were not allowed to attend the trial and Bo’s remarks were carried on the court’s official microblog, so are likely to have been edited.
Still, the transcripts provided by the court mark a level of openness that is unprecedented for a trial in China.
“Regarding the matter of [company manager] Tang Xiaolin giving me money three times, I once admitted it against my will during the Central Discipline Inspection Commission’s investigation,” Bo said.
“(I’m) willing to bear the legal responsibilities, but at that time I did not know the circumstances of these matters – my mind was a blank.”
Bo was charged with receiving bribes from Xu Ming, a plastics-to-property entrepreneur who was a close friend and is in custody, and Tang, the general manager of a Hong Kong-based company Dalian International Development, the court said.