08/22/2013, 00.00
CHINA
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Bo Xilai trial opens in Jinan. For many it is a farce

by Wang Zhicheng
Bo appeared relaxed and tanned. He denied taking some bribes, contrary to his declarations in an internal Party investigation. Demonstrators and supporters detained by police. Foreign media banned. Chinese media invited to make use of the official Xinhua dispatches. Bao Tong: the Party itself is really on trial here.

Jinan (AsiaNews) -The trial against Bo Xilai - former party secretary in Chongqing, powerful "prince" and son of Bo Yibo, one of the most influential communist leaders in the days of Mao and Deng Xiaoping -  opened this morning in Jinan (Shandong).

Bo Xilai is accused of corruption, abuse of power and having pocketed up to 21.8 million yuan (2.66 million euro).

The trial began at 8:30 am in a Jinan Intermediate Court, under tight police surveillance. Bo appeared relaxed and tanned and after the reading of the charges he denied taking bribes from a number of Dalian industrialists, contrary to what was stated earlier in an internal Party investigation. There were only 84 people and a dozen journalists present in the courtroom,. Foreign journalists were denied access. The Party propaganda bureau has "advised" the Chinese newspapers not to come to Chongqing, and use the official dispatches from Xinhua. On the other hand, posts about the trial are available on Weibo (the Chinese Twitter).

Until two years ago Bo Xilai seemed destined for a glorious future, a candidate for the Politburo Standing Committee. Even Xi Jinping, current president and secretary general of the party had gone to visit him in Chongqing and had praised his policy of revival of Mao Zedong, his populist commitment - a job and a home for residents- and his fight against corruption and mafias. Thanks to his " beat the black "campaign hundreds of members of the Party in Chongqing were imprisoned, perhaps because they were his political competitors.

But months before the transfer of power from Hu Jintao to Xi Jinping, Bo was ousted, then expelled from the party and finally indicted. Apparently his fall from grace was due to the confessions of his right arm man Wang Lijun, who attempted to flee abroad, and revelations about his wife Gu Kailai, convicted of murdering British financer Neil Heywood, former friend of the Bo family.

It is very likely however that Bo Xilai refused to bow to the new generation of leaders, and that on the strength of his personal power, the support of the population of Chongqing and part of the army, he was fighting-perhaps for reasons of power - other corrupt members of the party. In doing so he became a key figure that put at risk the unity of the Party itself.

For the Chinese public the trial "is a farce" and the verdict "is already written." Yesterday and today several people protested outside the court with placards and messages like: "He is innocent," "He was framed [by the Party]", "He served the people." They were all detained by the police.

Today the newspapers are full of slogans praising Xi Jinping because his fight against corruption affects not only "flies" (the small party figures), but also "tigers" (the high profile figures). But just before the Bo Xilai trial, state media have launched a campaign to reinforce the absolute power of the Party and reject the "constitutionalism" and the "rule of law" as Western idols that undermine China's security and power of the Party.

The great statesman Bao Tong, for decades under house arrest for criticizing the Tiananmen massacre, says that the trial of Bo Xilai is actually a trial against the Communist Party itself, given that the former chief of Chongqing "is the quintessential Communist" because what Bo is accused is a common practice among all members of the Party. He proposes a respect for the constitution, human rights, law and the end of the single party rule as the only way to avoid more corrupt leaders.

 

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