Bo Xilai

Bo Xilai told trial he had orders from the top to deal with Chongqing police chief

Removed trial transcript links him to Zhou Yongkang on handling Chongqing police chief

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 September, 2013, 8:01am

Bo Xilai claimed at his trial last week that he received orders from a law and order committee headed by China's former top policeman, Zhou Yongkang, on how to deal with the defection of the Chongqing police chief, say people with knowledge of the proceedings.

Bo's words to the court last week are the first direct evidence linking him to Zhou, himself now the subject of a party investigation for corruption.

A prosecution statement about the matter - first redacted, then removed from the official trial transcript - suggests Zhou was at least in contact with Bo about his handling of Wang Lijun's defection to the US consulate in Chengdu in February last year.

That incident brought down Bo, then Chongqing party secretary, and triggered China's biggest political scandal in decades.

At the time, Zhou was head of the Communist Party's Central Commission for Political and Legal Affairs. The commission oversees the nation's courts, prosecutors and the police.

Bo, who is awaiting a verdict on charges of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power after his sensational five-day trial, is widely seen as an ally of Zhou - the first current or former member of the party's supreme decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee, to be investigated for economic crimes.

Three separate sources who either attended the trial or were later briefed on proceedings said the prosecution and Bo spelled out clearly in court that he got a six-item order from the "Central Political and Legal Affairs Committee" when handling Wang's defection in February last year.

An official transcript of the trial posted online on Monday said only that Bo had received orders from a higher body. However, this version, too, was changed within minutes to make no mention of Bo receiving orders from above.

The original version quoted prosecutors as saying that "Bo first approved a forged medical certificate for Wang Lijun, before orders listing six points on how to deal with Wang arrived from a superior body in the hierarchy".

There is now speculation about who gave the orders from above of which Bo spoke.

The charge against Bo of abuse of power centres on his removal of Wang as Chongqing police chief without seeking prior approval from the Ministry of Public Security, which is under the central commission on law and order then headed by Zhou.

Bo issued the order days after Wang had told him his wife, Gu Kailai, had murdered British businessman and Bo family associate Neil Heywood in November 2011. Gu received a suspended death sentence for the crime last year.

The official transcript also removed Bo's mention of retired state leaders. In one instance, Bo explained to the court that, while he was minister of commerce, he had briefed then president Hu Jintao aboard his state aircraft on how he intended to grant permission to Xu Ming's company, Dalian Shide Group, to act as a private importer of crude oil and petroleum, the sources said.

Xu is the tycoon from Dalian, where Bo was once mayor, who was said to have bankrolled the luxurious lifestyle of Bo's wife and their son, Bo Guagua. Xu is also facing corruption charges.

Other details omitted from Bo's final statement included a denial of any ambition to become the country's premier, according to a written statement by a court observer that was circulated after the trial.

One of the three sources who talked to the Post said Bo appeared calm when making what was probably his final speech in public. The source also said that the document, which was authenticated by two other sources, captured the essence of Bo's final statement.

"Some say I wanted to be the premier," Bo said, according to the document. "That is completely untrue. As we all know, the party had determined after the 17th party congress that comrade Li Keqiang should become premier."

"Some said I wanted to be [Vladimir] Putin in China, but that is also not true," he added, in reference to the Russian president.

Li became premier in March, but had been tipped for the job since the 2007 party congress.

Bo was widely seen as a challenger for a place in the party's leadership through his leftist political campaigns in Chongqing, which won him much support among blue-collar workers and the lower middle class. Before Bo's fall from grace last year, Zhou reportedly worked behind the scenes to have him installed as a member of the Politburo Standing Committee.

To address the concern of top leaders, Bo also told the court that he had written a letter to the party's central leadership before the official investigation of his case. "I don't have malicious thoughts against the party," Bo said. He also told the court he wanted to keep his party membership.

Other testimony that might humanise Bo was also left out of the official account.

"I want to say to my relatives and siblings that I am not corrupt and I have not ruined the family's reputation," said the 64-year-old son of Bo Yibo , a revolutionary leader and one of the party's "eight immortals".

He added that he missed his sons. "I want to say to my two sons, Bo Wangzhi and Bo Guagua, that daddy misses you." Bo Wangzhi is usually referred as Li Wangzhi , as he adopted his mother's surname after his parents' divorce.

Court observers said that after his final statement, Bo's relatives present in the courtroom stood and applauded his remarks.