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 Xilai trial: Papers toe official line
Mainland newspapers stuck strictly to Xinhua's version of the Bo Xilai trial yesterday.
Despite the window into the case offered by an official court Weibo microblog, state newspapers and publications in cities and provinces where Bo served copied the headline and text from the state-run news agency word for word.
People's Daily, Guangming Daily and local newspapers in Chongqing , Liaoning and Shandong ran the story under the Xinhua headline "Bo Xilai stands trial for bribery, embezzlement, abuse of power". For the most part, the story was tucked away on inside pages.
Legal Daily stood apart by adding the word "alleged" before the charges, and in publishing the whole story on its front page.
While Bo's attempts to defend himself attracted considerable discussion online, Xinhua's report skipped over them and said only that "Bo did not acknowledge the accusations".
Most of the Xinhua article covered the prosecutor's comments, including the evidence and testimony against Bo, and the exact sums he is accused of receiving in bribes and embezzlement. It praised the court for offering justice and equality.
Local newspapers including the Chongqing Evening News, Dalian Daily and Shandong's Qilu Evening News ran the headline on their front pages but put the story inside.
Several official newspapers yesterday carried commentaries on their websites casting doubt on the likelihood of Bo's defence proving successful.
People's Daily carried a commentary online saying that the microblog updates would allow the public to identify Bo's low moral qualities in the face of hard evidence.
"The plain sophistry cannot beat the irrefutable evidence, and playing the word game cannot overthrow the fact of conviction," it wrote.
In a separate commentary on the website of Legal Daily, legal experts from Shandong said that even when a defendant did not plead guilty, the court could still issue a guilty verdict if the evidence was irrefutable.
"He can never deny what he did and said. If he broke the law, he deserves the punishment," Meng Fanhu, a lawyer in Jinan, told the website.
A signed commentary on the Guangming Daily website said the trial highlighted the confidence of the Communist Party. It said the decision to allow a live blog of the case showed that the new leadership was living up to President Xi Jinping's promise to fight both "tigers" and "flies" - senior and junior cadres - in its drive to stamp out corruption.