People's Liberation Army veterans and legal experts have called for a public trial of the disgraced deputy logistics chief Gu Junshan, so the Communist Party can show its resolve in cleaning up the military.
The calls come despite strong hints it will be a closed-door trial.
Gu, a lieutenant general, has been charged with embezzlement, bribery, misuse of state funds and abuse of power by the military procuratorate, or prosecutor's office.
Dr Zeng Zhiping , a retired lieutenant colonel and military law expert, said he and many other officers believed the Central Military Commission (CMC) should hold an open trial of Gu, just as the government did with former Chonqing party head Bo Xilai last year.
"Gu's case has severely tarnished the military's and state's image," Zeng said. "An open trial of Gu would also help improve the PLA's transparency and benefit the army's anti-corruption efforts in the longer term.
"[Besides,] his case only involves economic corruption, not military secrets."
Gu is the highest-ranking officer to stand trial on such charges since Vice-Admiral Wang Shouye in 2006. Wang received a suspended death sentence for embezzlement.
However, an article in the PLA Daily, the CMC's mouthpiece, delivered a strong hint that Gu's would be a closed-door trial. The newspaper yesterday cited Yu Xiao, a legal expert, as saying that Gu's trial might not be open as it might spotlight aspects of his job, including the production and procurement of tactical equipment, which are classified as military secrets.
"Cases involving military secrets concern national security and are not allowed to be tried in public in accordance with laws" and international judicial practice, Yu said.
Zhang Xuezhong , a Shanghai-based lawyer and former lecturer with the East China University of Political Science and Law, said the court could open a large part of Gu's trial to the public and hold closed-door hearings for parts that involved state secrets, if necessary. "Decision-makers might worry about the public's strong reaction [to the] serious level of Gu's corruption if the [trial] is open," Zhang said.
A Beijing-based retired colonel who requested anonymity said the leadership might keep the trial covert as it might bring to light some politically sensitive information. "Gu's case is closely linked with that of Xu Caihou and possibly of other senior officers," he said, referring to Gu's former boss and close ally. "There's still no conclusion on Xu's case. Thus, it is impossible for the leadership to let Gu's case be open."
Xu, the former vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, was detained two weeks ago and placed under investigation.
The colonel predicted Gu's verdict would be revealed but his trial would not be open.
Additional reporting by Minnie Chan