Aug 26, 2013

    Lengthy trial may be to Bo Xilai's advantage

    AS FALLEN politician Bo Xilai's trial extended into a fourth day yesterday, there were signs that the lengthy trial may be backfiring, as he continued his offensive, this time on former right-hand man Wang Lijun.

    Despite extensive negative coverage in China's state media denouncing Bo, the trial has not dented his popularity in his home base of Chongqing, reports said yesterday.

    "No matter how controversial Bo became to (Communist) Party leadership, it doesn't matter to us common people in Chongqing. He cared for us, like a father caring for his children," salesman Wang Qin told CNN International.

    She was one of many who benefited from Bo's public-housing projects, and who think his competence and charisma drew powerful enemies.

    To his supporters, the legacy of his reign, such as soaring office buildings and cheap public housing, still tower around them, but these projects were funded by debt that analysts have said is unsustainable.

    Yesterday, before the judge adjourned for the day abruptly, Bo launched a scathing attack on Wang, once his police chief. It was the latest flamboyant denunciation by Bo, who has dismissed his wife, Gu Kailai, as "insane" and compared another prosecution witness to a "mad dog".

    On Saturday, Wang provided explosive details about the scandal triggered by the death of British businessman Neil Heywood, saying that Bo had punched him after he told the politician his wife was responsible. Days after the punching incident, Wang fled to a United States consulate to seek asylum, blowing the scandal open.

    "Wang Lijun was lying during the trial and his testimony was not valid at all. His testimony was full of lies and fraud," Bo said yesterday.

    The Intermediate People's Court in Jinan is posting delayed transcripts of the proceedings on its account on Sina Weibo. Bo's robust rebuttals have astonished a public unfamiliar with the open airing of top-level intrigue.

    If the objective of posting the transcripts was to undermine Bo's populist image, the strategy may be backfiring. China analyst Li Cheng, from the Brookings Institution in Washington, thinks that is the case.

    "There are a lot of rumours that he was...out of control in jail. But he presented himself very well (at the trial on Thursday). He was very respectful, reasonable...He claimed he was betrayed by some bad guys," he told CNN.

    And while analysts said Bo will still be convicted, Dr Li now thinks the sentence may be lighter than predicted: "I think certainly the sentence won't be the death penalty, probably not even the death penalty commuted to life. The worst is probably the life sentence, and the most lenient probably 15 years."