A lawyer appointed to represent disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai (薄熙來) in his corruption case yesterday said he has been denied permission to act on his behalf, a move likely to reinforce the belief that Bo’s conviction is a foregone conclusion.
Gu Yushu (顧玉樹), a lawyer appointed by Bo’s sister, told Reuters he would not be allowed to represent Bo during his trial, which is likely to open this month, as authorities attempt to close the door on China’s biggest political scandal in decades.
“We did not receive approval, so it’s over with the client,” Gu said by telephone.
When asked for the reason why, he said: “It’s not convenient to talk about this.”
Prosecutors charged Bo with bribery, abuse of power and corruption late last month, capping the country’s biggest political scandal since the 1976 downfall of the Gang of Four at the end of the Cultural Revolution.
His wife, Gu Kailai (谷開來), and his former police chief, Wang Lijun (王立軍), have both been convicted and jailed over the scandal, which stems from the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood in the southwestern city of Chongqing, where Bo was the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chief until his sacking early last year.
Bo will be represented by two lawyers, Li Guifang (李貴方) and Wang Zhaofeng (王兆峰). Li had told Reuters that he was appointed by Bo, but the state-owned Global Times newspaper later reported that Li had been “assigned” by the government-run Beijing Legal Aid Center. Li could not be reached for comment.
Gu Yushu declined to say whether Bo would plead guilty, when the trial would start or whether he had seen Bo, saying he could not provide any details “given the sensitivity of the matter.”
The news of Bo being denied his sister’s choice of legal representation comes as Chinese police have detained a leftist supporter of Bo, who had urged people to protest against the upcoming trial, underlining government nervousness about the case.
Analysts say Bo’s trial will be a test case for the prospects of legal reform in China, but Bo is certain to be found guilty as China’s prosecutors and courts come under the CCP’s control and they are unlikely to challenge the party’s accusations against Bo.
“For such kinds of cases, who will act as lawyers are all arranged by the higher-ups,” said He Weifang (賀衛方), a law professor from Peking University who has followed the Bo case. “Whoever acts as the lawyer will not affect the outcome of the trial.”
Two lawyers previously hired by Bo’s family, Li Xiaolin (李肖霖) and Shen Zhigeng (沈志耕), said last year they had not been given permission to either see Bo or represent him.
Bo has not been seen in public for about 17 months and has not been able to respond to the accusations against him.
At a press conference days before his dismissal, Bo scorned as nonsense unspecified accusations of misdeeds by his wife and said people were pouring “filth on my family.”
Gu Kailai and Zhang Xiaojun (張曉軍), an aide to the Bo family, were both denied their choice of lawyers at their trials last year and had to accept government-appointed lawyers. Zhang was also jailed.