Former Chinese politician Bo Xilai speaks in a court room at Jinan Intermediate People's Court in Jinan, eastern China's Shandong province, Sunday.
BEIJING (USATODAY.com) -The trial of high-flying but divisive Chinese politician Bo Xilai, whose career came unstuck after his wife murdered a foreign businessman, closed Monday after five days of remarkably open testimony that exposed the elite lifestyle and troubled family life of a senior member of China's ruling Communist Party.
In the final morning of the trial, Bo Xilai, 64, commanded the stage, as so often in his political career, with another confident, bravura performance. He retracted an earlier confession, and blamed the defection of his police chief to a U.S. consulate, which sent the scandal on the move into the public domain, on the love he claimed the policeman felt for Bo's wife. "He invaded my family, he invaded my basic emotions. This is the real reason he defected," said Bo.
In their summing up, prosecutors said the evidence and facts are sufficient and clear to convict Bo on charges of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power. A severe punishment is necessary as Bo has refused to admit guilt, which could have brought a more lenient sentence, said the prosecutors, according to the official micro-blogged account of proceedings.
The unprecedented use of this social media tool has drawn widespread praise, plus suspicion that the transcripts are carefully censored to mould public opinion of Bo, the party and rule of law in China. Authorities here routinely censor the media, block access to many websites, and curtail any group activity they fear may spread unorthodox ideas or threaten "social stability". This weekend, officials once again closed the annual Beijing Independent Film Festival.
Despite the surprising if less than total transparency, analysts say a guilty verdict remains certain, as the Party would have not brought Bo before the courts it controls unless the outcome was pre-ordained. The heaviest sentence possible is likely to be a suspended death sentence, which usually means life imprisonment, as the party rarely enforces capital punishment on figures as senior as Bo, a former Politburo member and son of a revolutionary elder.
While Bo was removed from power under China's previous leader Hu Jintao, current Communist Party boss Xi Jinping is using the trial to prove the seriousness of his ongoing crackdown on corruption, said Russell Moses, a Chinese politics expert in Beijing
The trial has focused on the bribes and gifts allegedly received by Bo and his family, but it remains highly political, said Moses. "The trial is very much the capstone to a political takedown of an alternative way of conceiving what the Party should do and how it should do it," said Moses. Bo "was a major threat because he had both a style and a political strategy that appealed to a public that was looking for something more than the same old slogans."
Bo's rise in recent years threatened to disrupt what was planned as a straightforward transition to new leader Xi in Fall 2012. "Bo has been able to disrupt the trial very much as he threatened to derail the succession, but in both cases he's failed," said Moses, as Bo's career is over and his program has been set adrift.