A handful of supporters of ousted Chinese politician Bo Xilai (薄熙來) yesterday protested outside a courthouse in eastern China on the eve of his trial to denounce what they said was politically motivated persecution.
About 10 people held up signs outside the courthouse in the city of Jinan in Shandong Province, where Bo is set to appear in public today for the first time in 17 months to face charges of bribery, corruption and abuse of power.
The trial of Bo, 64, a charismatic and well-loved leader to some and a power-hungry politician to others, will cap the country’s biggest political scandal since the 1976 downfall of the Gang of Four at the end of the Cultural Revolution and could sharpen rifts in a society already divided about his fate.
Although there were only a few protesters at the courthouse, it was a sign that Bo still has a public following and supporters willing to risk being detained by security forces, who routinely lock up those involved in any sort of protest or unrest.
Police tried to move the small crowd of demonstrators away from the street, as dozens of journalists camped out in front of the main gate of the courthouse.
The protesters, who came from all over the country, held signs that said: “We’re watching the Bo trial to see if it’s fair and just.”
“When comrade Bo Xilai was put under house arrest, it was a violation of the party charter and when he was handed over to the justice system it was a violation of the constitution,” a protester from Chongqing surnamed Li said.
“This trial is illegal. We don’t believe in any outcome of this trial,” Li said.
Bo was the party chief in the sprawling southwestern metropolis of Chongqing at the time of his downfall last year.
There was no immediate sign yesterday that a secret session of the trial had started. Sources said on Tuesday that the charge of abuse of power against Bo relates to his flouting the authority of central leaders in Beijing, an allegation so sensitive that his trial could start one day sooner to hear it in camera.
The public support for Bo, though modest, underscores the difficulty the Chinese Communist Party faces in trying to both convince skeptics that Bo’s fall was not simply the result of elite infighting, and show the country that Beijing is serious about fighting graft.
Before his dramatic ouster, Bo looked set to join the upper ranks of China’s leadership.
After his appointment as party boss of Chongqing in 2007, he had turned the region into a showcase of revolution-inspired Maoist “red” culture, as well as state-led economic growth. Bo’s populist ways were welcomed by many of Chongqing’s 30 million residents — and others across the country.
However, his rise was stopped by a murder scandal involving his wife, Gu Kailai (谷開來), and his former police chief, Wang Lijun (王立軍). Both Gu and Wang have since been jailed over the scandal, which stems from the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood in November 2011.
Standing outside the courthouse, a protester from Beijing surnamed Li said: “Bo Xilai is not corrupt, Bo Xilai works for the people and is a good cadre.”
“Others have talked about serving the people, but they have just left the people hanging out to dry and not done anything practical for the people,” Li said. “I hope the Communist Party and [Chinese President] Xi Jinping (習近平) will support justice.”
A court spokeswoman in Jinan said that the trial will not be televised live, although the authorities will provide a press briefing when the court adjourns.
A Hong Kong-based broadcaster, Phoenix Television, reported on Tuesday that the trial would be televised live to reporters in a hotel in Jinan.
The last television coverage of a major trial in China was when state television broadcast excerpts from the trial of the Gang of Four in 1980. Jiang Qing (江青), the wife of Mao Zedong (毛澤東), was removed from the courtroom several times after shouting down judges and insulting witnesses as she stood trial for crimes committed during the Cultural Revolution.
Bo’s son, Bo Guagua (薄瓜瓜), has urged the authorities to allow his father to defend himself at his trial. Bo is almost certain to be found guilty, given that China’s prosecutors and courts come under party control and courts have a 98 percent conviction rate.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
LIFELONG LOSS: Jiro Hamasumi, who was not quite born when an atomic bomb hit Hiroshima, lost his father and other relatives, but said he thinks about his father daily As Japan marks 75 years since the devastating attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the last generation of nuclear bomb survivors is working to ensure their message lives on after them. The “hibakusha” — literally “person affected by the bomb” — have for decades been a powerful voice calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. There are an estimated 136,700 left, many of whom were infants or soon to be born at the time of the attacks. The average age of a survivor now is a little over 83, according to the Japanese Ministry of Health, lending an urgency as they share their testimonies