Bo Xilai’s Trial by Microblog: China’s Biggest Court Case Gets Under Way

In an unusually open move, a Chinese court tweets proceedings against the country's most high-profile prisoner

  • Share
  • Read Later
Feng Li / Getty Images

A screen shows an image of the trial of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai before a press conference in Jihua Hotel on Aug. 22, 2013, in Jinan, China

Bo Xilai never shied away from spectacle. In a country ruled by determinedly colorless cadres, he was a charismatic flash of light. Tall and film-star handsome, Bo favored fast cars and flashy suits. As party boss in the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing, he ruled with outsize, seemingly unfettered ambition, promising to purge the city of graft and gangs, and launching massive public-works programs. He cloaked his campaigns in the language of revolution, sending bureaucrats back to the farm, Mao-style, and bringing thousands of people together to sing patriotic songs.

Today the erstwhile showman featured in a drama of a different kind. In a courtroom in the eastern city of Jinan, far from Chongqing, Bo Xilai faced charges of abuse of power, embezzlement and taking bribes. The scene in Jinan, Shandong province, was carefully set: roads were closed and police lined the streets. At 7:10 a.m., a convoy of police cars and a minivan arrived, Reuters noted, but Bo himself was not seen. With the courtroom closed, observers had to rely on the court’s own microblog for information. “The chief judge announces the trial has begun and has called the defendant Bo Xilai to the court,” read an early missive. Hours later it published photographs of Bo in a wrinkled white dress shirt, dwarfed by two guards, his face deadpan.

(MORE: Crossing a Red Line: The Fall of Bo Xilai)

The fastidiously choreographed trial marks the latest, perhaps final, twist in what has become one of the People’s Republic’s most politically charged and compelling cases in decades, a lurid affair that has cast unwanted light on the inner workings — and fractious infighting — of the ruling elite. The scandal broke last year when Chongqing’s police chief, Wang Lijun, fled to a U.S. consulate with stacks of documents and, as later emerged, tales of a murder involving Bo Xilai’s wife Gu Kailai. Wang was later charged with defection, abuse of power and accepting bribes, and sentenced to 15 years in jail. Gu, meanwhile, was convicted after a one-day trial of murdering English businessman Neil Heywood. The fact that Wang and Gu are in prison, their cases closed, has done little to stem the tide of interest, with new revelations and rumors spinning forth week by week.

For the secretive, censorship-loving Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the Bo saga has been an awkward exercise in crisis p.r. China’s new leaders are faced with the delicate task of disciplining one of their own — of calling him out in a way that doesn’t undermine the very system that enabled his rise. Bo, like many of the country’s party brass, is a Communist Party aristocrat. His father Bo Yibo was a contemporary of Mao. This revolutionary cred, combined with the enduring popularity of his Red Revival campaign in Chongqing, makes him a difficult man to critique, especially at a time when the party, led by Xi Jinping, is undertaking its own “rectification” campaign, invoking CCP glories past to spur a crackdown on corruption.

(MORE: Daddy Dearest: The Son of Bo Xilai Defends Him)

Perhaps this is why the court seemed so willing to provide information about Bo’s alleged deeds. High-profile political trials are usually cut-and-dried, closed-doors affairs. In Jinan today, the doors were closed, sure, but the court’s Weibo account proffered up a detailed account of the charges facing Bo. The court said Bo took bribes totaling more than $3.5 million from officials at two Chinese companies, noting that he took the bribes “either by himself or with the aid of his wife and his son Bo Guagua.” He is also accused of abusing his power after he learned that his wife was suspected of murder, the court said. Bo has been disputing the evidence in court and has said that he made previous confessions while his mind was “a blank.”

Whatever else is revealed as the trial continues, a guilty verdict is all but assured. Microblog or not, it is clear that nothing has been left to chance. Indeed, China’s censors seem to be working overtime. A blog called Offbeat China parsed netizens’ comments on the court’s feed and found they hewed rather closely to the party’s script. “Support rule of law! Firmly oppose corruption!” one user wrote obligingly. But not everyone was so willing to parrot slogans. “I’m shocked to death after reading the comments,” said another. “They are as uniform as the military parade on national day.”

— With reporting by Gu Yongqiang / Beijing

MORE: Vice Doesn’t Pay: 10 Scandalous Chinese Officials Who Landed With a Bump

9 comments
burton.jd
burton.jd

China's economic development, reform and change lanes into the deep end. One can not expect any new tricks reform, economic reform breakthrough progress, but did not have mutations difficult. State monopoly system does not fundamentally change, economic growth is mainly Dahon civil, carrying out capital construction, infrastructure and real estate investment in other industries driven stimulation, as economic restructuring, economic and technological change, urbanization, land transfer will be very difficult, 3-5 billion people, urbanization, industrialization, modernization and transformation of more obstacles. GDP growth will face foam to increase, rising prices, inflation, currency devaluation, excess capacity, the product is no market, the real estate bubble explosion, the stock market bubble of economic crisis, social crisis, political crisis presents; GDP slowdown, increased unemployment, large, medium and small enterprises have been closed down, debt, do not pay support, financial crisis, economic crisis and social crisis to reproduce. 3-4 million migrant peasants and migrant workers will be difficult to solve society's major economic, political and social problems. 3-4 billion people, urbanization, industrialization and modernization is a very long process hardships attempt in a day, at once, pure fantasy and dreams, this process requires at least 30-50-100 difficult transition year process. Not simply invest trillions of dollars can be converted successfully, very difficult. The overall structure of the national economy and supporting the harmonious development of the distortions and imbalances seriously distorted, to the whole economic development shadows and dire consequences. Economic imbalances, a large number of economic and technical personnel shortage, the GDP will blew economy a huge threat and major challenge. In the world economy is still in the doldrums and difficult period, expect China to reproduce the brilliant economy and GDP growth, very wishful thinking and ignorance. China's economic growth standard value of 5-5.7%, normal, acceleration value can be jumped to 7-8-10%, but not lasting, life-cycle in about 5-15 years, over this line, the outbreak of the economic crisis. Maintain the value of about 5.8-6.2, beyond the red line, the crisis was underway. Violation of the rules of natural and economic laws, especially the rules of market economy, is bound to major mistakes and pitfalls unable to extricate themselves. Rely on state capitalism means you can save some stunts while, but can not save a long, long time, full of loopholes, it will fall apart. As for China's political reform and development, about 30-50-100-200 years (maybe longer or shorter, a few thousand years of feudal ideology and cultural needs adequate time and procedures to eliminate and transform inherited) democracy learning, imitation, absorption, transformation and restructuring and development phases and stages, to mature and grow, the transition to a democratic political victory. Economic revolution, social revolution, the technology revolution, political revolution, gene revolution, the Earth revolution, revolution is the history of the development of the universe complex, requires insurmountable phases and processes, otherwise, haste makes waste, counterproductive. Leftist and rightist are wrong. Including economic, political, are all true. As for the future of the world Decisive Force, mixed views. In fact, the. United States, Russia, Europe, the EU, Japan, India, Brazil, Canada, and other countries anyone can peak and decline, anyone can become a leading world superpower, the key lies in reform and supporting all necessary conditions have. Not simply in terms of GDP and population, bombs, missiles, aircraft carrier. Aircraft determine success or failure, more importantly, human consciousness behavior, rational and civilized humanity, leading influence in the world, and recognition of cognitive ability, superior political democratic system, economic system, so powerful science and technology strength, ideological and cultural appeal and so on. So any program of economic reform, political reform movement, any meeting decided that the only kind of progress or compromise, and truly historic step forward to promote the need for enormous political courage and reformers of his talents Wineur, dare to break through the creation, for example, political giant, probably in the distant future; Therefore, China is no such giants and masters of the times, in order to become a world giant, and that is beyond the reach of it. *% 8 ---? Unless the fanfare of projects and continue to invest in sexual stimulation enlarge the economy, including urbanization, expansion, etc., infrastructure and real estate accounted for 40% of the weight, but the continuous rise, delicious difficult to digest, inflation, rising prices, excess capacity, the real estate bubble, the technology bubble, Product no market, currency devaluation, ensues. 20 years? As long as 3-5 years on a large balloon exploded, also 20 years? Dog feces theory. Micro-stimulation, socio-economic and political contradictions polarization fermentation, 300 million farmers, migrant workers, etc.; slowing GDP, increased unemployment, business failures entire social unrest, no digestive capacity, debt, state-owned private dying. All roads are danger. Bumpy road, imagine the heavens opened and continue to the real estate bubble, prices soared to continue to continue to vigorously stimulate accelerated continue massive construction projects continue to 8% -9%, whether fantasy arrogant GdP growth disorders, neurological disorders, economic structure, technical and economic, economic transition easier said than done. Therefore, unity of thinking good, economic reform package worth mentioning, or political reform and political progress, there will be no significant breakthroughs and progress, at best, is the field of economic and other non-core interests administrative reforms or improvements, to survive and crest waves. Market economy and political model is generally consistent with and complementary, so pure economic reforms are not very effective; synergy between the two, in order to high-speed and stable development of the economy; otherwise, loss of balance, there will be a huge critical situation and serious consequences. For example, real estate, stocks and so on. . . . .

alizaknox
alizaknox

@nhqz @TIMEWorld Not sure they tweeted. Looks like they used Weibo "court’s Weibo account proffered up a detailed account of the charges"