By John Ruwitch ,Reuters
JINAN, China — Ousted senior Chinese politician Bo Xilai admitted to shaming his country and poorly handling a defection attempt by his former police chief after he told Bo his wife had committed murder, but Bo denied trying to protect her from the accusation. Bo was a rising star in China’s leadership circles when his career was stopped short last year by the scandal involving his wife, Gu Kailai. Bo is now on trial charged with corruption, taking bribes and abuse of power. Supporters of Bo’s Maoist-themed social programs say he lost out in a power struggle with capitalist-leaning reformists in Beijing, exposing divisions within the ruling Communist Party as well as society. With the evidence relating to the first two charges against Bo now apparently out of the way, the most sensitive charge was heard on Saturday, the third day of a trial many expected would last just a day. A guilty verdict for Bo is a foregone conclusion, and despite his spirited defense, published on the court’s official microblog, state media, which speaks for the party, has already all but condemned him. As police chief of Chongqing, where Bo was Communist Party chief until he was dramatically sacked early last year, Wang Lijun was known as the strong arm of the law, energetically carrying out Bo’s crackdown on crime and gangs. But he fled to the U.S. consulate in the nearby city of Chengdu in February last year after confronting Bo with evidence that his wife Gu, a glamorous lawyer, was involved in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood. After first helping Gu evade suspicion of poisoning Heywood, Wang hushed up evidence of the murder, according to the official account of Wang’s trial. Both Wang and Gu have been jailed for the murder. When Wang told Bo of his suspicions about Gu, he was “angrily rebuked and had his ears boxed”, according to the official account of the incident related by state media. Bo told the court that he felt “ashamed” by Wang’s flight to the U.S. mission which had reflected badly on the image of the party and country. “I wasn’t able to behave coolly at a critical juncture and I made serious errors in judgment,” Bo said, according to a transcript provided by the court. “So I bear some responsibility for Wang Lijun’s flight and I feel very sorry for this.” “I have made mistakes and errors, I feel very sorry and I’m willing to take appropriate responsibility, but whether there was a crime or not is another matter,” Bo said. “I did not act illegally to show favoritism and protect Gu Kailai.” Bo said he did not believe it when Wang first told him Gu was a suspect in Heywood’s murder, saying Gu had shown Bo a Chongqing police report that said Heywood died of a heart attack bought on by drinking, which Heywood’s wife had signed. “In my mind, Gu Kailai is a weak and frail woman, she could not kill someone. And she had a good relationship with Wang Lijun,” Bo said.
Bo was furious with Wang when he was told that his wife was a murder suspect, and sacked him despite not having party authority to do so, sources with knowledge of the case have said. Neither did Bo report the matter to his bosses in Beijing, all of which led to the abuse of power charge, they said. Bo ordered his mayor, Huang Qifan, and security personnel to besiege the U.S. mission in Chengdu and take Wang into custody, even though he had no authority to mobilize security forces to grab someone in another city, the sources also said. Wang was eventually coaxed out by officials from Beijing and taken to the capital. The Chongqing government initially explained he was worn out and emotionally spent and had taken a “vacation-style treatment”.