The five-day-long trial of Bo Xilai (薄熙來), the disgraced former Chinese Communist Party (CCP) secretary in Chongqing, finished on Aug. 26.
Some people feel disappointed that things did not play out according to a script of the political drama they had in mind, while others feel the trial was entertaining, as if they had been watching a family quarrel.
However, compared with the trial of the Gang of Four in 1981, the Bo trial had five interesting aspects:
First, the Bo trial was a legal trial, not a political one. Nor was it a repeat of the trial of the Gang of Four.
That trial was about the politics of different factions in the Chinese government. It was weak because it tried to deny any involvement by Chinese leader Mao Zedong (毛澤東) and then-Chinese premier Zhou Enlai (周恩來), while linking the Jiang Qing (江青) and the Lin Biao (林彪) cliques.
The four commanders in Lin’s clique — former People’s Liberation Army (PLA) chief of the general staff Huang Yongsheng (黃永勝); air force commander Wu Faxian (吳法憲); naval political commissar Li Zuopeng (李作鵬) and PLA logistics department director Qiu Huizuo (邱會作) — have never been satisfied with the attempt to link Lin to Jiang and have all written books on the issue.
The Bo trial, on the other hand, was simple and went according to judicial process. Both the prosecutor and the defense exercised their rights according to the law, and Bo’s self-defense was impressive. The process was orderly and nothing went awry.
This was disappointing for those who were hoping to see a political drama.
However, what did go awry were China’s ideological schools of thought outside the courtroom.
On the first day of the trial, Bo withdrew the confessions he had previously made and defended himself in court.
The Chinese-language People’s Daily immediately ran a story calling Bo shameless, mad and a hypocrite, and even requested that Web sites reprint this criticism, although Bo was merely exercising his legal rights. The courts are yet to hand down a verdict, so it is difficult to understand why the paper was in such a rush.
The second aspect is that Bo’s performance was in line with his two-faced personality.
He is hypocritical and cruel, and sold out his wife in an attempt to get himself off the hook. However, he is not “mad” as the People’s Daily would like us to believe. He is in fact very clear about what he is doing. Whenever crucial evidence was involved, Bo denied any guilt and, by saying things like “I don’t remember,” “I am unaware of that,” or “that has nothing to do with me,” he skillfully exercised his right to defend himself.
This approach proved much smarter than the way the Gang of Four’s Jiang protested and the way Zhang Chunqiao (張春橋), another member, said nothing during their trial.
The only flaws in Bo’s performance were the brutal accusations he made against his relatives and close aides, and the lack of evidence he had to back up his comments.
Third, the methods the Bo family used in their corruption and bribe-taking were more complicated than anything seen before.
To invest in a luxury villa in Nice, France, the Bo family used three shadow companies to cover their tracks: one registered in the British Virgin Islands, one in Canada and another in France.
These methods were very different from the organized crime style extortions and blackmailing that former Executive Yuan secretary-general Lin Yi-shih (林益世) used in Taiwan.