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As trial begins in China, Bo Xilai contests some charges

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By The Los Angeles Times
Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, 9:57 p.m.
 

JINAN, China — Bo Xilai, once a feisty Communist Party chieftain in the running to lead China, told a provincial court on Thursday he would fight some of the charges of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power against him.

The 64-year-old Bo said as his trial opened he had wrongly confessed last year to a disciplinary panel of the Communist Party without fully understanding the charges against him.

“I didn't know the details at the time. My brain was a blank,” Bo said, according to an excerpt released by the court.

The trial in the provincial capital of Jinan, 250 miles south of Beijing, opened inside a courthouse guarded by hundreds of uniformed police and paramilitary. Reporters were kept outside in a police-cordoned holding pen.

In a style befitting the 21st century, the court communicated with the public by posting perfunctory updates on Sina Weibo, a Twitter-like service popular in China.

Bo was shown in a white button-down shirt, black trousers and well-shined leather shoes, instead of the usual orange prison garb. The still photograph released by the court was the first public glimpse of Bo since he was purged and vanished from public life in March 2012.

Unlike the chastened defendants in some other recent Chinese trials, Bo quickly began to pick apart the evidence.

In particular, he objected to an assertion that he had taken bribes from a real estate developer, Tang Xiaolin, who worked for the city of Dalian, where Bo was mayor in the 1990s.

Bo said he allowed Tang to build an office building on Dalian's behalf in the city of Shenzhen out of public interest, not greed.

The court said he was accused of using his public positions to accept bribes worth $3.6 million at current exchange rates from businessmen Xu Ming and Tang. The indictment said the bribes were passed through his wife, Gu Kailai, and his son, Bo Guagua.

The embezzlement charges relate to $820,000 Bo allegedly skimmed off the renovation of government offices in Dalian in 2002.

Bo is accused of abuse of power in connection with his most recent post, as Communist Party secretary of Chongqing. Those charges stem from the 2011 killing of Neil Heywood, a British expatriate who worked with the Bo family.

Bo's wife was convicted last year of poisoning Heywood. Although Bo is not implicated in the slaying, he is charged with pressuring Chongqing's former police chief, Wang Lijun, to kill the investigation.

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