Disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai and former henchman Wang Lijun traded accusations of treachery and violence over the weekend as the country’s most dramatic political trial in decades continued to offer rare glimpses of life at the top of the Communist party.
The trial of Mr Bo, the former Chongqing Communist party boss and politburo member, on charges of corruption, embezzlement and abuse of power is due to continue for a fifth day on Monday.
But the weekend testimony, relayed via official, censored transcripts, maintained the drama that has made it the most closely followed trial in China since the conviction of Jiang Qing, Mao Zedong’s wife, in 1980. The two men’s exchanges again revealed plenty of the sort of high-level intrigues and conspiracies normally kept well-hidden by the Communist party.
Wang, the former police chief in Chongqing, triggered Mr Bo’s downfall when he fled to a US consulate in Chengdu in February last year. He went on the run after telling Mr Bo that Gu Kailai, the Chongqing party boss’s wife, had murdered former fixer, British businessman Neil Heywood.
Wang, who was feared by many in Chongqing during his tenure there, told the court that he saw himself as a “victim” of Mr Bo.
He testified that he had confronted Mr Bo in January 2012 with detailed evidence that Gu had poisoned Mr Heywood in November 2011 and that Mr Bo had reacted by punching the police chief and smashing a glass before dismissing him in order to cover up the murder.
The prosecution also presented testimony describing an elaborate scheme by Mr Bo and Gu to have Wang declared ill so as to fabricate a reason for his removal as police chief.
Mr Bo responded by dubbing Wang a liar. “His testimony is full of deception,” Mr Bo said. “Once he opens his mouth, he lies.”
Mr Bo told the court on Saturday that he was willing to take some responsibility for Wang’s defection to the US consulate, which sparked the scandal. But he insisted that he was not guilty of abuse of power.
According to records from the trial of Gu, who is serving a suspended death sentence for the murder of Heywood, she confessed the murder to Wang who initially helped her cover it up. Wang has also been jailed in connection with the murder.
Mr Bo said in court that he had handled the incident badly because he had “lost his cool”.
“I have made missteps, I have made mistakes, I am ashamed and willing to take some responsibility. But guilty or not guilty is a different question,” Mr Bo said. “I did not twist the law for personal motives to shield Gu Kailai.”
Mr Bo’s rejection of the abuse of power charge followed an equally spirited defence against charges of corruption and embezzlement, extremely unusual for a political trial such as this.
Additional reporting by Gu Yu