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Ousted Politician Bo Xilai Goes on Trial in China

Disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai denied some of the charges against him, as his high-profile trial began Thursday amid heavy security in eastern China.

Government-run microblogs that are releasing details of the tightly choreographed trial said Bo denied receiving some of the bribes he is accused of taking during his time in the eastern city of Dalian, where he served as mayor and party chief.

The official Xinhua news agency says Bo, who is also being charged with corruption and abuse of power, told the court that he hopes the trial can be held "in a reasonable and fair manner and follow the legal proceedings of our country."

A picture released by state media showed the 64-year-old standing in the dock with his hands folded in front of him, surrounded by two policemen. It was the first time he has been seen in public for 17 months.

Government-run broadcaster CCTV reported the trial in Jinan, the capital of eastern Shandong Province, will last two days and that a verdict is expected in early September. It is China's most closely watched trial in decades.

Outside the court, police blocked off streets with large plastic barriers. Nearby, a few Bo supporters who held a protest questioning the fairness of the trial were quickly hustled away by police for a second straight day.

Though state media said 19 journalists were allowed into the courtroom, foreign media were kept out and the trial was not televised, reflecting the government's sensitivity about the case.

Fred Wang with VOA's Mandarin service is with other journalists watching the proceedings from a media center set up at a hotel near the court.

"We waited in a newsroom for about three to four hours, just watching Weibo, the Chinese Twitter, to release one picture after another. We didn't have any access (to the courtroom) at all. Then a spokesman just read a news release and didn't answer any questions."

But official government microblogs did provide what some called an unprecedented, real-time account of the proceedings, as prosecutors laid out the charges against Bo.

Kerry Brown, who heads the University of Sydney's China Studies Center, tells VOA the move reflects the Communist Party's acknowledgement that the scandal is on the mind of China's population.

"It shows the media terrain has changed in China. I think there is a sort of appetite to know about this case, and the party has to satisfy that."

Despite the increased openness, there is little doubt among China watchers that Bo will be found guilty. Brown, a former British diplomat in Beijing, says the outcome has already been decided by the top members of the party.

"This is not a trial that we can foresee Mr. Bo walking free from this court in Jinan. It's just not going to happen. I think we all know that this has been predetermined."

Bo is a former member of the Communist Party's 25-member Politburo and ex-party chief of the southwest megacity, Chongqing. Before his downfall, he was thought to be a top contender for the elite Politburo Standing Committee at a leadership transition last year.

His 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 the murder of a British businessman.

Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, was later convicted of murdering the Briton in a failed financial deal. Wang, meanwhile, was convicted on charges including defection, abuse of power and taking bribes.

The abuse of power charges against Bo are related to his alleged efforts at blocking an investigation into his wife's murder of the British businessman, Neil Heywood.

Prosecutors on Thursday also accused Bo of accepting more than $3.3 million in bribes during his previous posts in Dalian. They said he also embezzled $820,000 in public funds.

Prosecutors said his son, Bo Guagua, and his wife were involved in accepting some the bribes.

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