Dollop of Romance Is Added to Intrigue at an Ex-Chinese Leader's Trial

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JINAN, China -- Concluding a trial that has riveted China, Bo Xilai, the former elite Communist Party official, attacked elements of the prosecution's case on Monday and said his former top deputy and his wife, both of whom provided evidence against him, had a passionate relationship with each other.

Mr. Bo said the charges of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power against him were deeply flawed because they depended on evidence from his wife, Gu Kailai, and his former top deputy, Wang Lijun, who he suggested were themselves involved with the abuses Mr. Bo was accused of committing -- and with each other.

Mr. Wang and Ms. Gu "were stuck together as if by glue," he said in his closing comments.

Mr. Bo's final testimony added to the soap opera-like twists in a trial that provided an unusual showcase of how China manages its legal system. Mr. Bo, 64, who was stripped of his membership in China's ruling Politburo last year, is nearly certain to be found guilty. But he was given considerable leeway to defend himself in extended and colorful testimony, according to transcripts of the trial that were circulated by the court and that appeared widely in state media.

The trial was carefully stage-managed by the ruling Communist Party to focus on narrow criminal charges brought against Mr. Bo rather than the broader political struggle that led to his purge. Neither Mr. Bo nor the prosecutor referred to serious tensions that moving against a Politburo member, who hailed from a prominent revolutionary clan, caused for the party during a year of political succession.

Mr. Bo's oratory, starting from his defiant remarks on Thursday, may have given spectators the impression that he had freedom to speak his mind, and also won him some sympathizers. But the trial appeared to substitute drama for completeness. He appeared to limit his own comments to addressing the prosecution's claims and did not, as he might have done, use his knowledge as a party leader to reveal how the families of other powerful party leaders had amassed far more wealth than he was accused of acquiring.

In previous days, testimony showed that Mr. Bo's wife and son had taken lavish gifts from a billionaire; that Ms. Gu had told Mr. Wang, who was the police chief of Mr. Bo's metropolitan region, Chongqing, that she poisoned a British businessman; and that Mr. Bo had punched or slapped Mr. Wang in the face after Mr. Wang confronted him with that news two months later.

The trial was the most closely watched in China since that of the Gang of Four, which included Mao's wife Jiang Qing, was broadcast live on television in 1980. Mr. Bo's trial is taking place in the social media age, and the party is learning to harness the power of microblogs for information control. Journalists in Jinan to cover the trial were barred from the courtroom and sat in hotel rooms for hours reading transcripts released via the court microblog.

The most explosive revelation of the trial came when Mr. Bo asserted in his closing speech that Mr. Wang had had a final falling out with Mr. Bo and fled to a nearby American consulate in late 2011 in large part due to tensions that boiled over from his infatuation with Ms. Gu. The wife and the police chief had been close for years, Mr. Bo said, ever since a young tycoon, Xu Ming, introduced Mr. Wang to Ms. Gu. Mr. Wang won Ms. Gu's confidence when he investigated Ms. Gu's suspicions that she had been poisoned, and he became a constant presence in the Bo household.

"Because he and Gu Kailai were stuck together as if by glue, Gu Kailai took him at his word, and Wang Lijun infiltrated my household because of his association with Gu Kailai," Mr. Bo said. "So now such a serious thing has occurred."

He added: "The two had an extremely special relationship, and I was so sick of it."

Mr. Bo said that Mr. Wang harbored an enduring "secret love" for Ms. Gu, and that "his emotions were twisted; he could not free himself." Mr. Wang expressed his feelings in one or more letters to Ms. Gu, Mr. Bo said. One day, Mr. Wang told her of his love and slapped himself eight times in front of her.

"You're abnormal," Ms. Gu told Mr. Wang, according to Mr. Bo.

"I used to be abnormal, but now I'm normal," Mr. Wang said.

Then Mr. Bo suddenly walked into the room and took the letter or letters away, he said. "He knew my character," Mr. Bo said. "He harmed my family. He harmed my basic feelings. That's the true reason for his defection."

The sequence of events was not clear, but Ms. Gu entered a room of Mr. Wang's in Chongqing at one point and stuck 60 or 70 notes on the walls that warned Mr. Wang to be careful, Mr. Bo said. Another time, Ms. Gu brought Mr. Wang's leather shoes to the Bo family home, and Mr. Bo asked a close aide to take them away.

The speech appeared to confirm earlier assertions from people familiar with the family that Mr. Wang and Ms. Gu had had a relationship that went well beyond a close friendship. One Bo family associate said before the trial that Mr. Wang visited Ms. Gu at her home daily and took charge of her medical care; Ms. Gu had become a recluse since falling ill around 2006.

Earlier in the closing statement, Mr. Bo defended himself against the bribetaking and embezzlement charges by saying he had few material desires. "I have no interest in clothing," he said. "I still wear the cotton-padded pants my mother bought for me in the '60s."

Mr. Bo also denied any knowledge of the expensive gifts Mr. Xu gave his wife and son, like airplane tickets. "The state country didn't select me for my accounting skills," he said. "I'm not an accountant in charge of flight ticket reimbursements."

But Mr. Bo did admit to lapses in authority as head of his household, even if he was innocent of criminal negligence: "I did not manage my family and subordinates well," he said. "I made big mistakes, and let down the party and the masses."

Mr. Bo also said he made one confession to investigators because he thought he could preserve party membership and salvage his political career. He retracted the confession on the first day of the trial.

Internally, officials involved in the trial have maintained that the party has tried to respect due process, even if the spectacle has been carefully managed, said one person briefed by a justice official involved in the case. "They say that generally, they were prepared for all of this," the person said. "They wanted to give Bo a degree of opportunity to speak, and his testimony and statements were not unexpected."

He added, "In the end, they say they were satisfied with how the whole process went, because it did seem very real and human."

A verdict is expected in early September. Criminal cases in China have an almost 100 percent conviction rate, and party leaders have almost certainly settled on giving Mr. Bo a long prison sentence.

Patrick Zuo contributed research from Jinan, and Mia Li contributed research from Beijing.

Jonathan Ansfield

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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