Author Zhang Lijia looked for the BBC World Service back at the Bo Xilai thriller, an event that kept many Chinese glued to their computer screens, mobiles and sometimes even TV-screens. Some of the motives behind an unprecedented open political trial.
The whole saga of Bo Xilai, a former political star, contains all the ingredients for a thriller: power, political intrigues, sex and murder. It is little wonder that his trial, which ended on Monday, captivated the nation.
As expected, it turned out to be stage managed in many ways, from its location, to the timing (coming before an important meeting in November) to the selection of the police escorts (believed to be basketball players) towering over Bo, who is himself fairly tall.
The biggest surprise was its transparency: Jinan court transcribed the proceedings through microblog in Sina Weibo. Although the transcription was selective, such openness is unprecedented in China.
Why? On one hand, I’d like to give our authorities the credit for taking a step forward towards legal openness; on the other hand, I guess there maybe other less honorable reasons.
Our government might have felt obliged, given the massive attention the case has been receiving from the world media ever since Wang Lijun, Bo’s police chief in Chongqing, attempted to seek asylum at a US consulate. And then Bo’s wife Gu Kailai was of course implicated in murdering a British businessman.
Our new president Xi Jinping might have liked to use the trial to showcase his vigorous anti-corruption campaign as he vowed to catch corrupt officials, both ‘tigers and fliers’.
I also suspect that such openness as well as Bo’s decent chance to defend himself was the result of a careful behind the door maneuvering by the regime and his supporters in high places. This case must be the most difficult one for the Chinese Communist Party since the trial of the so-called Gang of Four in 1980. Bo, a son of a top revolutionary leader, is caught in a web of different factions, interests groups and ideologies.
The China Weekly Hangout discusses once a week current affairs in China. On April 4 Steve Barru and Fons Tuinstra discussed what they expect from the political change in the upcoming ten years under Xi Jinping; agenda: Hu Jintao, austerity, poor-rich divide, and more.
On Thursday September 5, the China Weekly Hangout will discuss with Steven Millward of Tech in Asia the recent flood of plans by China’s internet companies to go global. Read our initial announcement here, or register here at our event page to join the exchange.