Chinese Communist "princeling" Bo Xilai, expected by many to take a key leadership position in the leadership transition of 2012, was expelled from the Communist Party in September after a career that saw him as Mayor of Dalian City, Minister of Commerce and Party Chief of the Chongqing municipality. His wife Gu Kailai received a suspended death sentence in August 2012 for murdering British business partner Neil Heywood.
Court’s Sina Weibo account promotes one-sided debate on disgraced Bo Xilai
Microblog comments on disgraced Chinese politician heavily censored
Keith Zhai and Patrick Boehler
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A Chinese court, where disgraced Communist Party leader Bo Xilai is due to stand trial on Thursday, has set up a microblog gathering thousands of followers within hours of its launch.
Comments on its weibo-only platform however remain heavily censored as the Chinese public struggles to come to terms over Bo’s controversial legacy.
The Jinan Intermediary People’s Court turned to Sina Weibo, China’s largest micro-blogging platform, to announce Bo’s trial date in what could be the most historic statement it has made in its 59-year history.
Bo will face charges of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power on Thursday in the court’s fifth chamber, it wrote in the post.
News spread fast, making Bo, whose name had been unblocked by the censors as a microblog search term, a hot topic on Sunday. But censors were quick to impose subtler ways of moderating the debate about one of the last moments of Chongqing’s former party secretary in the public limelight.
“Server data synchronisation has been delayed, please wait 1-2 minutes,” is the message anyone who wishes to comment on the announcement of Bo’s trial sees. Negative comments don’t appear on the site after the waiting time has passed. The more than 1,000 comments which do appear are consistently in favour of his widely predicted conviction.
The former party secretary of Chongqing continues to enjoy support among those throughout the nation who praised his leftist nostalgia campaigns and urban renewal efforts in the western commercial hub known as the “Chongqing model”.
Song Yangbiao, a journalist, online commentator and one of Bo’s most outspoken supporters, was held by police in Beijing on August 5 for calling on Bo’s supporters to storm the courthouse and free the son of revolutionary hero Bo Yibo. Song has since been released on bail and has refrained from commenting on Bo’s trial.