Bo Xilai trial: "Live telecast" of trial? Not quite

A journalist takes pictures near a television screen displaying the Weibo (Chinese version of Twitter) page of Jinan Intermediate People's Court, at the media centre of the court during the trial of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai in Jinan, Sha
A journalist takes pictures near a television screen displaying the Weibo (Chinese version of Twitter) page of Jinan Intermediate People's Court, at the media centre of the court during the trial of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai in Jinan, Shandong province on Aug 22, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

Reporters who travelled to Jinan in eastern Shandong province to cover the trial of former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai had access to proceedings as promised.

Except that the authorities' idea of a "live broadcast" was to set up two flat screen TVs in a media hotel to show tweets from the Jinan Intermediate People's Court's Twitter-like Weibo account.

Reporters can of course follow the tweets anywhere as long as they have an Internet connection. Still, those tasked with the live coverage in Jinan are paying close attention.

"(The writing) is so small, we need a magnifying glass," remarked a reporter at least seven rows behind the screens, which were set up in an auditorium that could seat about 300 people.

The organisers also got two female attendants to stand beside each TV - an effort to distract reporters from the lack of real access perhaps.

The tweets, while informative, have all been texts so far with no photos of Bo posted.

His appearance is of immense interest as he has not been seen in public since March last year.

Some reporters in Jinan vented their frustration on their own Weibo accounts.

"I have come so far to Jinan just to eat yang rou chuan'er," lamented one Chinese reporter, in reference to the mutton meat skewers that locals recommend.

A photo posted on Weibo by the China Business Journal captioned "So this is the legendary live telecast" has been deleted - a sign that the propaganda authorities might have started censoring material online after allowing netizens to post freely about the trial so far.

hoaili@sph.com.sg