- Posted August 23, 2013 by
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The third day of the Bo Xilai trial offers up a slew of surprises
China's biggest political trial in decades opened on Thursday with an extraordinary display of defiance by Bo Xilai, the former Communist party high-flyer facing charges of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power.
Bo stands accused of receiving bribes totaling almost 27 million Yuan (£2.8m) between 2000 and 2012 from the heads of two companies – Tang Xiaolin, the head of Dalian International Development, and Xu Ming, the head of Dalian Shide Group.
According to lengthy transcripts the court released in an extraordinary show of transparency, Mr. Bo, 64, called his wife’s assertions that she had noticed anonymous deposits in their safe “laughable.” He accused a businessman who had recorded video testimony against him of having “sold his soul.” He called one of the prosecution's main witnesses a "mad dog," and dismissed testimony by his estranged wife as "laughable" and "ridiculous.” Bo called his defense lawyer questioned Gu's suitability as a witness, saying she was a convicted murderer with a history of mental illness.
Bo Xilai claims his wife is 'mad' and 'always tells lies'
In her statement, his wife said she took money several times from safes at her homes in Dalian, Shenyang and Chongqing, safes which only Gu and Mr Bo could open. She said she took the money to the UK for her son's studies.
But her husband called her words "ridiculous", saying she could not prove the money she took had been from those safes and questioned whether she could even remember the amount she took.
“I think Gu Kailai’s testimony is very funny, very laughable,” he said, according to the court. “The safe we shared had more than $50,000 or $80,000 in it. There were also hundreds of thousands of yuan in the safe. How does she know I was the one who put in all the cash she took out?”
The blog also cited Bo's lawyer as saying that Gu is "mentally unsound" and that her words cannot be trusted.
Bo turns cross-examiner
One of the biggest surprises of the third day was Mr Bo being given the chance to cross-examine key prosecution witness Xu Ming.
"Gu Kailai, Xu Ming and Bo Guagua never filled me in on their dealings," the court blog quotes Mr Bo as saying.
Then he puts a series of questions to the businessman.
Bo Xilai: You said you supported Bo Guagua and you covered his expenses for airline tickets, credit cards and other things. Have you ever told me that? Xu Ming: No.
Bo Xilai: Have you ever told me about Africa, that you covered their expenses? [Referring to a trip Bo Guagua was said to have taken with friends that was allegedly funded by Xu Ming.] Xu Ming: No.
Bo Xilai: Thank you for being truthful. You bought Gu Kailai expensive items. You bought Bo Guagua luxury watches and have you ever told me that? Xu Ming: No.
Bo Xilai: You said that Bo Guagua and Gu Kailai spent millions every year while they were living overseas. Have you ever told me that? Xu Ming: No.
Bo Xilai: Have you ever told me about the property in Nice? Xu Ming: I mentioned [in my testimony] that I talked about it in your house at the dinner table and another time at the ministry of commerce.
Bo Xilai: Apart from those two occasions? Xu Ming: No.
Witness is a 'crazy dog'
From the court's blog, Mr Bo is dismissive and he calls Tang Xiaolin, who was not in court, a "crazy dog snapping at things for reward", arguing that his evidence has no credibility because he is only trying to reduce his sentence.
Indeed Mr Bo called Tang Xiaolin's testimony "the ugly performance of a person selling his soul" - upon which the judge warns him not to make defamatory comments.
He still says the businessman's actions are a "blasphemy", an affront to the sanctity of the courtroom.
Bo Xilai described as 'a masterful liar'
Bo‘s denial of the charges and strong language as he made his first public appearance since being ousted early last year were unexpected. But observers said he could have agreed to choreographed proceedings that would show authorities in an impartial light in exchange for a pre-arranged sentence.
The mouthpiece of China's leaders, the People's Daily, says Bo Xilai is an "actor" and "masterful liar" but his performance "won't help him escape punishment".
"It's definitely the last performance of Bo Xilai on the platform of history," said Zhang Lifan, a Chinese historian and political analyst. "Bo is a man with no bottom line and for him, if his political life is ruined, it would be equal to killing him."
"He knows that he's a banner to many of his fans and it's his last chance to go all out to defend his reputation," Zhang said.
a martial arts demonstration
Despite Bo's feisty defense, a verdict of guilt against Bo is all but assured because the outcome of trials involving high-profile politicians in China are usually decided in backroom negotiations by politicians and handed down by the court.
"It's very much like a martial arts demonstration," said Ding Xueliang, a Chinese politics expert at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. "You hit somebody in the face, he hits you back, but eventually nobody gets badly injured and the result has been previously discussed and managed."
Bo could face the death sentence, though a suspended death sentence is more likely, which effectively means life imprisonment or a 20-year term.
His guilt is an almost foregone conclusion given that prosecutors and courts come under Communist Party control.