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.
Bo’s spirited defence unlikely to influence verdict, lawyers say
Bo Xilai's spirited defence, and the high degree to which his legal rights have been protected during his trial, are still unlikely to influence what is probably a predetermined judgment, lawyers say.
"Bo was once famous for trampling the law, and now he is promoting the legal progress in China in another role," Chen Youxi, a prominent mainland lawyer, wrote in a microblog post after reading publicly-released court transcripts yesterday of the trial of the disgraced Chongqing party chief.
Most legal professionals and the public agree that Bo has been accorded his rights to defend himself in court, and that he has challenged the allegations against him with logic and impressive eloquence.
But in a case so weighted by political considerations, it remained to be seen whether his battle of words would influence the judgment, according to some legal experts.
Standing in court yesterday, Bo continued to resolutely deny charges of embezzlement and taking bribes.
He said the evidence prosecutors provided for the allegation of his accepting a million-dollar villa in France from property tycoon Xu Ming could hardly be linked to himself.
"The evidence proved that Gu Kailai [Bo's wife] obtained such a villa," Bo told the court. "But if we liken this case to a huge ball, what is related to me and this villa… is just a thin thread on the surface of the ball."
Commenting on Sina Weibo yesterday, Chen said the hearing was more open to the public than he had expected, and that protection of the defendant's rights was rarely seen to such a high degree on the mainland.
However, he called prosecutors' investigation into the case "regrettable" in three aspects. First, Gu, who received a suspended death sentence last year for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, should have faced extra charges as an accomplice to Bo in taking bribes. Prosecutors' failure to pursue Gu's role in taking bribes from Xu gave Bo a chance to escape punishment by insisting he was unaware of the matter, Chen said.
Second, Bo should face an extra charge of concealing his wife's role in the Heywood murder; and third, the written and oral testimonies Bo provided to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection should not be used as evidence in a court of law, because the commission has no authority to launching investigations on behalf of the state.
Pu Zhiqiang , another well-known lawyer, agreed that such evidence "should not appear at court at all".
He also echoed doubts by Bo's defence team yesterday over the credibility of testimony acquired from abroad surrounding the purchase of the villa.
Like Chen, Pu doubted that an independent verdict would be reached. "The power of the judges… is confined to writing down the judgment and listing the corresponding legal provisions," Pu wrote on Weibo.
"For the rest, they will be take their cue from Zhongnanhai [the central headquarters of the Communist Party]."