At Bo Xilai trial, glimpse into China’s Red royalty

Journalists watch an online pre-recorded testimony by Gu Kailai, wife of former Chinese politician Bo Xilai before a press conference held at a hotel near the Jinan Intermediate People's Court in Jinan,on Friday. Photo: AP  

The continuing trial of the former Politburo member Bo Xilai has provided a rare glimpse into the private lives of one of China’s most influential Red families, even as the once powerful “princeling” politician on Friday continued to strongly rebut allegations of bribery and abuse of power.

On Friday, the courtroom in Jinan, in northeastern Shandong province, heard video testimony provided by Mr. Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, which raised fresh questions about Mr. Bo’s role in the family’s business dealings, which he had denied on Thursday.

Ms. Gu said Mr. Bo had been directly involved in the family’s acquisition of a villa in the south of France – one of the main pieces of evidence of corruption put forward by prosecutors – and with the dealings with businessman Xu Ming. Mr. Bo is alleged to have received bribes in excess of 21 million Yuan (Rs. 21 crore) from Mr. Xu.

The former Politburo member however, in surprisingly strong terms, dismissed her claims, saying his wife was “crazy”.

“She has changed, she is crazy, she always tells lies. She made her confessions when she was mentally ill and under severe pressure from investigators,” Mr. Bo countered.

Her testimony, nevertheless, provided a rare glimpse into the lives of one of China’s most elite Red families, and of the rampant corruption in the Communist Party that has emerged as one of the biggest threats to its legitimacy.

The testimony showed how Mr. Bo had, during his time as Party Secretary in Dalian, fostered close links with local businessman Xu Ming, who founded the Dalian Shide company, which is one of China’s largest private industrial companies.

Mr. Xu, it was alleged, paid for Mr. Bo’s 25-year-old son, Guagua, who studied in the elite Harrow School and later Oxford, to visit Africa in 2011, flying him by a private jet to Mount Kilimanjaro.

While Mr. Bo had rejected Mr. Xu’s testimony on Thursday, arguing he had never personally dealt with the businessman, Ms. Gu said: “Bo Xilai asked if it was safe for Guagua to go and I said Xu made all the arrangements, so he stopped worrying.”

She said her son had even brought back for Mr. Bo “a big piece of meat from a rare animal”.

“Guagua said we could eat it raw but Bo said we needed to steam it. Guagua said it was very expensive, he was angry that it would be ruined. We ate it for a month.”

Mr. Bo, however, denied the charges. “I can say with certainty that I know nothing about flight tickets, hotels, travel or Africa," Mr Bo responded. He said his wife’s mental state and hopes of a reduced sentence had led her to make the claims.

While the Communist Party has sought to portray Mr. Bo’s as an exceptional case, for many in China the trial has been seen as only reaffirming wide perceptions of corruption among party elite.

The trial, which continues on Saturday, has shown how the families of one of China’s senior most leaders lived a life of opulence, with a local businessman – who grew his empire using their political clout – flying them across the world, helping them buy real estate in the south of France, and paying their bills as the younger Bo travelled to France, Argentina and even the Football World Cup in Germany.

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Printable version | Jul 28, 2021 6:09:34 AM |

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