Prosecutors seek severe punishment as Bo Xilai's trial concludes

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In this photo released by the Jinan Intermediate People's Court, Wang Lijun, former Chongqing city police chief, center, testifies during the trial of former Politburo member Bo Xilai, unseen, at Jinan Intermediate People's Court in Jinan on Aug. 24, 2013.

Bo Xilai deserves severe punishment because he refused to admit guilt on bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power charges, Chinese prosecutors said as the ousted Politburo member's trial ended today.

Bo insisted during his five-day trial that while he made mistakes in his career, he didn't commit any crimes. He sought to discredit those who testified against him, calling his wife crazy, comparing a former businessman in Dalian to a wild biting dog and saying his former police chief in the city of Chongqing had lied.

"The suspect's crimes are serious, and given that he doesn't admit to them, he should not be entitled to more lenient punishment in the eyes of the law," prosecutors said, according to a transcript posted to the microblog of the court in the eastern city of Jinan where Bo's trial took place. "He should be punished more severely in the eyes of the law."

Bo's spirited defense, hailed in state media as a sign of the trial's transparency, appears to have been carefully managed, signaling it was part of the Communist Party's plans for his case, said Steve Tsang, director of the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham in England. The court's release of updates on the Internet broke with precedent in which sensitive political trials were conducted in secret.

"Bo is merely challenging the evidence put up against him," Tsang said. "He is not challenging the right and legitimacy of the leadership putting him on trial."

Political star

Bo, 64, a former commerce minister and party secretary of Chongqing, was accused of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood. The downfall of the rising political star in March last year roiled a once-a-decade leadership transition and posed the biggest crisis to the Communist Party since the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

Prosecutors said today the facts are clear and the evidence is sufficient that Bo is guilty of all charges against him, according to a posting on the court's microblog. Announcing the end of the trial hours later, the official Xinhua News Agency said the verdict would be announced at a date still to be decided.

Bo's trial shows "how in a nation with a socialist government, nobody, no matter how senior their position, or how much power they wield, can get away with breaking the law," prosecutors said today, according to the court's transcripts.

Testimony by Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, has been a central part of the prosecution's case, and included claims that Bo knew about a 5 million-yuan ($817,000) "consulting fee" given to the family by a former urban planning official in Dalian when Bo was the city mayor. Gu was convicted of Heywood's murder last year and given a suspended death sentence; Bo is accused of trying to cover up her involvement.

"˜Forced' accusations

In his rebuttal today, Bo said the prosecution's accusations were "forced." He said he didn't have the close bond with his wife that prosecutors claimed. Bo rejected a claim by another witness that he paid for family expenses such as plane tickets.

"Even the lousiest TV drama scriptwriter wouldn't create something like this," Bo said.

Yesterday, Bo sought to refute testimony by Wang Lijun, the former police chief of the Chinese city of Chongqing when he was Communist Party secretary there. Wang went to U.S. consular officials with evidence that Gu was involved in Heywood's murder. Bo said Wang had a crush on Gu and confessed his love to her.

Obviously lying

"Wang Lijun has been obviously lying throughout his whole testimony," Bo said yesterday, according to a transcript released by the court. "His testimony should completely not be accepted by the court. It is full of deceit and nonsense talk."

Wang was last year convicted of "bending the law for selfish ends" and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He testified Aug. 24 that Bo punched him in the face when confronted with the possibility that Gu was responsible for the murder.

Over the weekend, Bo admitted to having extramarital affairs, saying Gu's anger upon learning about his infidelity was the reason she went to live abroad with their son, Bo Guagua. Guagua went to the elite British boarding school Harrow and later to Oxford University, and then graduated from Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

In a country where the Communist Party maintains strict control of sensitive political trials, the state-run Global Times newspaper said in an editorial the decision to release updates on Weibo, Sina Corp.'s Twitter-like microblogging platform, "served as an important guarantee of a fair trial for Bo in accordance with the law."

Defend himself

The party's handling of his case, and perhaps even the decision to let Bo defend himself so vigorously, may have been the result of negotiations between competing factions in the party leadership, according to Edward Friedman, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

"The leaders don't care about the corruption or the murder -- they care about preserving the political system in which they and their kith and kin do so well," he said. "The lurid facts of the case, however delectable, are a misleading distraction from the sensitive and serious politics of self-preservation which animated the party leadership to want Bo removed."

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