China: Bo Xilai ‘deserves severe punishment’

Images from Chinese TV show Bo Xilai reading his final statement to the court. Picture: CCTV/AFP/Getty Images
Images from Chinese TV show Bo Xilai reading his final statement to the court. Picture: CCTV/AFP/Getty Images
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China’s most sensational trial in decades has ended with disgraced politician Bo Xilai hinting at a love triangle involving his wife and former right-hand-man – both of whom were key witnesses against him – as he made last-ditch efforts to redeem his reputation.

The prosecution countered by saying Bo should be severely punished because he showed no remorse during the corruption trial in the eastern city of Jinan, aimed at capping a scandal set off by the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood by Bo’s wife and resulting in Bo’s removal from top posts and the Communist Party.

In testimony yesterday, Bo denounced his wife, Gu Kailai, as crazy and his former police chief, Wang Lijun, as dishonest, as he sought to portray himself as an official who worked too hard to scrutinise his family’s affairs and who was surrounded by duplicitous people.

“He [Wang] was secretly in love with Gu Kailai, his emotions were tangled and he could not extricate himself,” Bo said.

Prosecutors said the trial proceedings have shown adequate proof of Bo’s guilt on charges of netting the equivalent of about £2.8 million through bribes and embezzlement and abuse of power in interfering with the murder investigation. A date for the verdict has not been given. Bo faces a possible life sentence.

“The defendant’s crimes are extremely grave, and he also refuses to admit guilt. As such, the circumstances do not call for a lenient punishment but a severe one,” the prosecutor said, according to a court transcript.

Though Bo’s downfall has widely been perceived as the result of his defeat in party infighting ahead of last autumn’s once-a-decade leadership transition, officials have taken unusual steps to portray his trial as a legitimate prosecution of his misdeeds, including the release of transcripts of the proceedings.

Bo mounted an unexpectedly vigorous defence against the criminal charges, recanting his earlier confessions and seeking to lay the blame for most of the misdeeds on his wife and others. However, he refrained from denouncing the administration and his political opponents, ­according to the transcripts.

Most importantly, he acknowledged the party’s legitimacy while holding firm to his denial of the charges – a move that seeks to retain his honour and appeal to party loyalists.

“I made serious faults and mistakes,” Bo said. “I deeply feel that I failed to govern my family and it had a negative effect on the state. I sincerely accept the investigation from the party and the judicial departments, but the charge of corruption is not true.”

In his efforts to distance himself from Gu, he admitted an affair and said the couple had been estranged at one point.

Bo was accused, among other things, of providing political favours to a businessman, Xu Ming, in return for having him at his family’s beck and call.

According to Bo’s wife, Xu gave the family expensive gifts , a villa in France, international air travel to three continents, sumptuous dinners and a Segway scooter. Gu said Bo knew about the gifts because she told him.

Bo is also accused of funnelling the equivalent of £500,000 in government funds from a secret project.

The court also heard allegations that Bo abused his power as the Communist Party secretary of Chongqing to block an investigation into Mr Heywood’s murder, as well as to hide his aide’s embarrassing flight to a US consulate – an event that help set the scandal into motion.

Yesterday, Bo said that Wang tried to defect to the consulate early last year, not in a dispute over the investigation into the murder – as was commonly understood – but because he had confessed his feelings to Gu and feared Bo’s rage over that.

Bo told the court: “He knew my personality, he’d trespassed on my family and violated my basic emotions, this is the real reason he decided to defect. Wang Lijun in reality is trying to muddy the waters.”

He also said Gu and Wang had a “very special relationship; I was frustrated by that”.

Wang had earlier said in court he went to the Americans as he feared for his safety after he told Bo the politician’s wife had murdered Mr Heywood.

Striking a note of resignation, Bo thanked the court for letting him fully defend himself.

He said: “I know there is no escape from my fate and sometimes I was weak at heart. Faced by imprisonment, I have mixed feelings and the only thing I have is the rest of my life.”