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Bo Xilai's Wife Testifies as China Trial Continues

Journalists watch online pre-recorded testimony by Gu Kailai, wife of former Chinese politician Bo Xilai, in Shandong province, Aug. 23, 2013.

Journalists watch online pre-recorded testimony by Gu Kailai, wife of former Chinese politician Bo Xilai, in Shandong province, Aug. 23, 2013.

A Chinese court trying former Communist Party politician Bo Xilai has released video testimony of his wife in an attempt to bolster the claim that he knowingly accepted bribes.

In the pre-recorded, 11-minute video, Gu Kailai said her husband was aware that a wealthy businessman had given the family gifts, including airline tickets, expensive seafood and cash.

Bo Xilai

  • Father Bo Yibo was one of the founders of the People's Republic of China
  • Bo Xilai joined the Communist Party in 1980
  • Was mayor of Dailan, governor of Liaoning province and commerce minister
  • Named leader of Chongqing city in 2007 and ascended to membership in the Politburo
  • Gained prominence for launching crackdown on corruption in Chongqing
  • Expelled form Communist Party in September, 2012
  • Found guilty of bribery, corruption and abuse of power in September, 2013, sentenced to life in prison
Bo, who is also charged with embezzlement and abuse of power, has vigorously denied the bribery allegations. On Thursday, the first day of the trial, he dismissed his wife's testimony as "laughable."

The official Xinhua news agency says Bo on Friday denied his wife's testimony by doubting her mental condition. It says he claimed "she is mad and always tells lies."

It is the first time Gu has been seen since she was convicted last year of killing a British businessman over a failed financial dispute, in a scandal that eventually led to Bo's dramatic downfall.

VOA Mandarin Service's Fred Wang, who is watching the trial from a media center near the court in the eastern city of Jinan, says the prosecution is trying to use Gu's testimony to weaken Bo's case that he was not aware of her dealings.

"Can you just by these facts make a conclusion that Bo Xilai took a bribe? I don't know. It's kind of yes and no," Wang said. "But Bo Xilai's wife's testimony testimony will damage her husband's reputation."

Government-run microblogs on Thursday gave a real-time account of the proceedings and posted court transcripts, providing an unexpected level of transparency for a sensitive trial that is one of the country's most closely watched in decades.

Related video report by VOA's Bill Ide:

Wang said that information largely dried up as the second day of the hearing began, possibly because Chinese authorities were concerned about the level of public attention given to Bo's defiance of authorities.

"This [trial] is very popular. Three hundred million people are probably watching on Weibo. I think there might be a disagreement among the top leaders, so that is why there was nothing the whole morning," he said.
The trial is not televised and foreign journalists have been barred, though 19 members of state media have been allowed inside. Foreign media have been relegated to watching official microblogs and selectively released videos on large-screen television from a nearby hotel.

Analysts say China's top political leaders almost certainly decided beforehand that Bo will be found guilty and receive a lengthy prison sentence, as in other sensitive political trials in China.

Steve Tsang with Britain's University of Nottignham told VOA that this will not likely change, even if Bo manages to present a convincing case.

"A trial of a former Politburo member is of such importance to the Communist Party, that it is above the pay grade of any judge in China to be put in charge of," he said. "The verdict will have to be agreed on beforehand by the Politburo or the Standing Committee. Bo Xilai knows that."

Timeline of the Bo Xilai Scandal

  • February 2: Bo's key ally and Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun is demoted
  • February 6: Wang visits U.S. consulate in Chengdu
  • March 15: Bo dismissed as Chongqing party chief
  • March 26: Britain asks China to investigate November death of Briton Neil Heywood in Chongqing
  • April 10: Bo suspended from Communist Party posts. China says Gu is being investigated for Heywood's death
  • August 20: Gu given suspended death sentence after confessing to Heywood's murder
  • September 24: Wang convicted of defection, power abuse and bribe taking
  • September 28: Communist Party expels Bo

  • July 25: Bo indicted for bribery, corruption, abuse of power
  • August 22: Bo trial begins in Jinan
  • September 22: Bo sentenced to life in prison
Bo's downfall began last February when his police chief, Wang Lijun, fled to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu. There, he told American diplomats about Bo's alleged role in covering up his wife's murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.

A former Politburo member, Bo was stripped of his political posts and kicked out of the Communist Party shortly after the scandal erupted. His wife was later given a suspended death sentence.

Thursday's hearing saw Bo firmly reject charges that he accepted millions of dollars in bribes over the course of several years from a real estate developer in the eastern city of Dalian.

Bo retracted an earlier confession about the bribery, saying his "mind was a blank" and he did not fully understand the charges against him. He also attacked the testimony of the developer, calling him a "crazy dog" and saying the developer was trying to frame him for the crime.

Thursday's trial was the first time the 64-year-old Bo had been seen in public since his arrest in March, 2012. A picture released by the court showed him standing somberly, his hands folded, next to two policemen in the dock.

State broadcaster CCTV originally reported that the trial will only last two days and that a verdict is expected in early September.