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Bo Xilai Calls His Wife Crazy in Vigorous Defense at Trial (1)

August 24, 2013

Bo Xilai called his wife “crazy” and said she spoke under duress as a Chinese court aired testimony in which she detailed the dispute that led to the former Politburo member’s ouster and corruption trial.

In written testimony presented by prosecutors yesterday, Gu Kailai said Bo knew that a family friend, Xu Ming, helped pay for them to buy a villa in France. Bo said he had didn’t know how the house was bought.

“Gu has changed, she’s crazy, she always tells lies,” Bo said, according to a transcript released by the court in the eastern city of Jinan. “Under the circumstances, her mental state wasn’t normal. Her handlers put huge pressure on her.”

The testimony by Gu and other witnesses, as well as Bo’s combative response and denial of the charges against him, provided insight in a case that threw the Communist Party into turmoil last year. In contrast with past political trials, the Jinan court has posted live updates on its microblog about the proceedings.

In a country where the party controls such trials, the decision to sift through so much evidence in court -- and reveal so much of the detail publicly -- may be a bid to lend credibility to the inevitable guilty verdict for Bo, according to Lin Yan an associate professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s KoGuan Law School.

“All evidence, including that of key witnesses, has been presented and cross-examined,” Lin said. “It seems that the government has been forced to satisfy Bo’s procedural rights to build the legitimacy of the trial.”

Chongqing Secretary

Bo was removed as Communist Party secretary of Chongqing and ousted from the Politburo last year after his former police chief in the city, Wang Lijun, fled to a U.S. consulate with evidence about his family’s alleged involvement in the 2011 murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.

In court today, Bo continued sparring with the prosecution, denying claims from Wang Zhenggang, a witness who said he gave Bo’s family 5 million yuan ($817,000) from a construction project as a consultancy fee, according to a court transcript.

“If I were the embezzler, as Wang Zhenggang accused me of taking the 5 million yuan, I would at least have to think hard and make plans to avoid this incident being known to other people, wouldn’t I?” Bo said. He also questioned why he would need the money since his wife made a good living as a lawyer.

Along with bribery and embezzlement charges that have been the focus since the trial started Aug. 22, Bo was charged with abuse of power for allegedly trying to cover up his wife’s role in Heywood’s murder.

Heywood Murder

In testimony given earlier and offered by prosecutors yesterday, Gu said Heywood was murdered after he threatened their son Bo Guagua while he was in the U.S., amid a dispute over the French villa. In 2007, she had transfered her ownership share in the villa to Heywood because she didn’t want the property to be linked to her family as Bo gained more prominence. She later canceled his holding because she felt Heywood was unreliable, according to a court transcript.

A commentary yesterday in the Guangming Daily, republished by state media including the People’s Daily and China Central Television, said Bo was “playing tricks” with testimony on the first day of the trial Aug. 22, when he denied ever taking any bribes and said one witness was “biting like a crazy dog.”

“Bo’s effort to protect himself crashed in the face of evidence and makes his challenges powerless and laughable,” the commentary said.

Eight Immortals

As the son of former Vice Premier Bo Yibo, one of the “eight immortals” of the Communist Party, Bo belongs to the princeling class of second-generation officials whose families are tied together through decades of alliances and patronage.

While he was in Chongqing, Bo gained popularity among leftists by starting a campaign to revive Mao Zedong era songs and slogans. His popularity may have given him the freedom to push back against the court system, according to Nicholas Howson, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, who studies Chinese legal institutions.

“Unlike so many other criminal defendants in China, Bo has a political background and popular support which allows him to push back,” Howson said.

Five of Bo’s relatives attended the trial, including a son from his first marriage, Li Wangzhi.

“I am proud of my father,” Li said in a statement from his lawyer that first appeared in the New York Times. “I hope that my father will continue to respect the law, and that the law also is able to respect the facts, and is able to give the people an explanation, and give history an explanation, and also give his son an explanation too.”

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