Bo Xilai

Pictured, slim and greying: How 18 months under investigation have treated Bo Xilai

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 August, 2013, 8:51am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 August, 2013, 9:09am

The man shown on television and online in China Thursday was far removed from the Bo Xilai of old, a slick politician in tailored suits before his fall in a murder, corruption and abuse of power scandal.

State broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) showed the once rising star of China's Communist party standing in an open-necked shirt looking pensive, slightly stooped and his hair trimmed and tinged with grey at the temples.

While his words as reported by the court in Jinan, in eastern China, appeared defiant, the 64-year-old looked to have lost some weight, his none-too-slight frame noticeably shorter than the two policemen flanking him.

But in many images his posture was somewhat slouched - in stark contrast to the last previous public view of Bo, sharing the stage of the Great Hall of the People with China's most powerful men at the National People's Congress parliament meeting in early 2012.

He was detained soon after and held at an unknown location, with the information vacuum surrounding him filled with wild rumours of hunger strikes and a refusal to cut his hair.

About 40 minutes before Bo was shown on television, a picture was posted on the court's account on Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblogging service similar to Twitter, showing him standing between the policemen.

Journalists at a media centre in a nearby hotel crowded round to take photos and video of it.

"Bo's more than 180cm tall," said one online comment. "The cops next to him must be 190+cm. Were they chosen for that on purpose?"

By 5:00pm (0900 GMT), the picture had become one of the most popular on Weibo, being reposted 60,000 times, with hundreds of people commenting.

"He is just a victim of the political system," wrote a supporter.