Bo Xilai trial: China releases video of ousted politician's wife
JINAN (AP) - The Chinese court hearing the corruption case against disgraced politician Bo Xilai released videotaped testimony on Friday from his wife, whose murder of a British businessman set off the scandal that ruined Bo's career.
The video of Gu Kailai is intended to bolster bribery allegations against her husband, who has launched an unexpectedly spirited defense in the trial that opened on Thursday.
Gu has not been seen since August 2012, when she was convicted of murder in China's messiest political scandal in decades.
Bo has launched an unexpectedly spirited defense in the trial, which opened Thursday in Jinan Intermediate People's Court and is widely believed to have a conviction as its predetermined outcome. Bo has questioned his wife's credibility and even her mental health while fiercely denying that he took US$3.5 million (S$4.47 million) in bribes from two businessmen.
In the video, Gu said a businessman accused of bribing Bo was a family friend who did many favours for them in exchange for her husband's help. The businessman, Xu Ming, is from the north-eastern city of Dalian, where Bo was once a top official.
Gu said Xu often paid for the family's international air tickets and brought gifts that included expensive seafood. She said her son received a Segway - an electric standup scooter - from Xu, and that Bo had been aware of the gifts.
"Xu Ming is our old and long-time friend," Gu is seen telling her questioner, who identified herself as someone from the Supreme People's Procuratorate, the country's top prosecutor's office.
"We had a very good impression of him and believed he was honest and kind, so we trusted him a lot."
Gu is seen seated at a table in a black-and-white striped shirt in the video, posted on the Jinan court's microblog. The microblog and court transcripts have provided a rare but possibly incomplete window into the proceedings for the public and for foreign media, which have been barred from the courtroom.
It is unclear when the video was shot. Gu, convicted of murdering businessman Neil Heywood, received a suspended death sentence that may be reduced to life in prison.
Bo is accused of corruption and of interference in the investigation of Heywood's murder. Prosecutors on Thursday ended months of suspense about details of the bribery charges against him, rolling out accusations that featured a villa in France, a hot-air balloon project and a football club, illustrating how colorful corruption can be in China. The trial was delving further into the bribery allegations on Friday before moving on to charges of embezzlement of government funds and abuse of office.
The Communist Party hopes the trial will show that it's serious about cracking down on widespread corruption in a transparent way despite what is widely believed to be a predetermined conclusion of guilt. Its openness in releasing transcripts of the proceedings underscores its confidence it can weather any damage to its reputation from a case that exposed the illicit machinations of an elite family in China's communist establishment.
Bo's defense on Thursday focused on challenging prosecutors' evidence that he provided political favors to the two businessmen. He said barely knew the men and argued that he was ignorant of the favors they were providing his wife and son.