In the Courtroom, Eye-to-Eye With Bo Xilai

At South China Morning Post, a lawyer who attended the trial and sentencing of disgraced Chongqing Party chief Bo Xilai gives impressions of the proceedings. The account describes all parties’ conduct in the courtroom as impressive, but notes errors and omissions in the official transcripts and signs of pressure on the defense lawyers. It notes also that Bo’s attitude towards and judicial procedures seemed to have evolved since his fall:

As the accused standing in the dock, Bo defended himself with points of law. Contrary to the approach used during his “reign” in , he shocked everyone in the courtroom with his firm grip of the spirit of the rule of law, substantive legal principles, and what constitutes a crime. Therefore, we could infer that when Bo was in power in , he had a clear concept of the rule of law and knowledge of how an accused person could be protected legally. It becomes thought-provoking when an official knows what is correct but still neglects the law and has wantonly ordered widespread arrests. That applies even more when he tries so-called “criminals from gang-like groups” in violation of the Principle of the Criminal Procedural Law. (The phrase “gang-like groups” is used, not “gang,” because the Chinese government does not admit to the existence of gangs on the mainland). It is clear that some officials really have been “ruling” with the use of concepts they do not agree with or know are wrong. This may be the deepest-rooted problem in Chinese society at the moment.

[…] Often, an accused person only understands the importance of the law when standing in the dock. [Source]

See more on Bo Xilai, his trial, and his sentencing, via CDT. A decision on Bo’s appeal is expected on Friday; a leaked directive from the Central Propaganda Department has warned Chinese media not to speculate on the story or deviate from Xinhua’s wire copy, and to keep a tight rein on employees’ weibo accounts.