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.
Diehard supporters make their presence felt outside court
A heavy police presence was not enough to stop some diehard followers of Bo Xilai from getting close to the Jinan Intermediate Court to voice their support in front of the world's media yesterday.
Despite his fall from grace amid accusations of corruption and abuse of power, Bo remains a hero to leftists for his attempts to revive revolutionary culture, crack down on organised crime and promote egalitarian policies.
"Many people have tried to come from all over China today to support Bo Xilai's policy of bringing wealth to all," said one supporter from Chongqing . He said many other supporters were intercepted by police on their way to Jinan .
More than 100 police sealed off the entrance to the court while the 100 or so journalists given accreditation were asked to stay in a designated area opposite the court. Unaccredited journalists could get nowhere near the building. Many reporters took to following the proceedings on the court's official Weibo feed.
Police quickly took away protesters displaying banners.
"[Bo] was purged by [President] Xi Jinping and [Premier] Li Keqiang and the public knows it in its heart," a man from Beijing said in an alleyway near the court.
"If the foreign media don't come here to speak for him, who will? Where is Xinhua news agency?" he said, adding that he supported Bo because he clamped down on triads and "carried on with the path of Chairman Mao Zedong ".
Video: Defiant Bo denies bribery charge as China trial opens
However, Legal Daily yesterday quoted a Jinan resident selected to attend the hearing as saying Bo was "a corrupt element that broke the law, and like a common criminal, should stand before the court and be tried."
While Xinhua made unprecedented use of Weibo and Twitter to cover the trial, mainland media reporting was sporadic. CCTV's evening news did not mention the trial, though CCTV's news channel did report on it.
Mainland media were gagged and told to use only Xinhua articles in reporting the case.
Some mainland internet users expressed enthusiastic support for the microblog coverage of the case. "In front of the law, famous public figures are just like normal citizens! This is open justice!" one blogger said.