JINAN, China — China’s most sensational trial in decades ended Monday with disgraced politician Bo Xilai hinting at a love triangle involving his wife and former right-hand man – both 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 in the five-day corruption trial in the eastern city of Jinan, aimed at capping a scandal set off by his wife’s murder of a British businessman and resulting in Bo’s purge from top posts and the Communist Party.
In testimony, Bo denounced both his wife, Gu Kailai, as crazy and his former police chief, Wang Lijun, as dishonest, as he has sought to portray himself as an official who worked too hard to have time to scrutinize his family’s affairs and who was surrounded by conniving, duplicitous people.
“He (Wang) was secretly in love with Gu Kailai, his emotions were tangled and he could not extricate himself,” Bo told the court.
Prosecutors said Monday that the trial proceedings have shown adequate proof of Bo’s guilt on charges of netting $4.3 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, in accordance with the law,” the prosecutor said, according to a transcript of the court proceedings.
Though Bo’s downfall has widely been perceived as the result of his defeat in party infighting ahead of last fall’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 detailed, though presumably vetted, transcripts of the proceedings.
Bo mounted an unexpectedly vigorous defense against the criminal charges, recanting earlier confessions and rarely expressing contrition as he sought to lay the blame for most of the misdeeds on his wife and others. However, he refrained from using the trial as a stage to denounce 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 at once seeks to retain his honor and appeal to party loyalists.
“I know I am not a perfect person and I had a bad temper and acted subjectively and 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.”
Bo added a folksy touch to his arguments, hitting on themes of filial piety, simplicity and tradition that appeal to his support base, made up mostly of farmers and workers at the lowest rung of society who have been disillusioned by the perceived immorality of party cadres. He said the jacket he was wearing was made by a local township company in Dalian, and the pants were bought by his mother in the 1960s.
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 favors 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 that included a villa in France, international airfare to three continents, abalone dinners and a Segway scooter – and Gu said Bo knew about the gifts because she told him.
Bo is also accused of funneling $800,000 in government funds from a secret project.
The court also heard allegations over the weekend that Bo abused his power as the Communist Party secretary of Chongqing to block an investigation into the Briton’s murder, as well as to hide his aide’s embarrassing flight to a U.S. consulate – an event that help set the scandal into motion.
On Monday, Bo repeated his doubts about the evidence presented by prosecutors while introducing a bizarre twist to the narrative. Bo said that Wang tried to defect to the consulate early last year, not in a dispute over the investigation into the Briton’s murder – as was commonly understood – but because he had confessed his feelings to Gu and feared Bo’s rage over that trespass.
“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,” Bo testified.
He also said that Gu and Wang were as close as “glue and lacquer” and that they had a “very special relationship; I was frustrated by that.”
Wang had earlier said in court he went to the Americans because he feared for his safety after he told Bo that the politician’s wife had murdered the Briton.
Striking a note of resignation, Bo thanked the court for letting him fully defend himself. “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.”