The former rising star of the Communist Party called one witness a “mad dog” and described his testimony as “the ugly performance of a person selling his soul.”
Bo dismissed the testimony of his wife against him as “very comical, really laughable.”
Political analysts and many in government remain convinced that party leaders and Bo reached an agreement before the trial about its outcome, saying that authorities would not have proceeded otherwise.
What’s unclear is whether Bo’s heated defense was part of that plan or a true surprise borne of his forceful personality and penchant for showmanship.
“His defense was genuinely surprising,” said Willy Wo-Lap Lam, a political analyst at Chinese University of Hong Kong. But Lam and others say they think even that was part of a negotiated arrangement with the government.
Both sides got something out of Thursday’s proceedings, the first day of a two-day trial, Lam said.
Bo had a chance to prove to his substantial number of supporters that he is not taking his prosecution lying down. For its part, the party can point to the vigorous defense it allowed as evidence of the rule of law and a fair and open trial.
A once-powerful party chief, Bo has been the focus of scandal, political maneuvering and negotiations for the past year and half. His dramatic fall from grace — sparked, in part, by the mysterious death of a British businessman — led to the party’s biggest crisis in three decades and exposed divisions among its leaders.
Bo had not been seen in public since party officials began his political purge. The first images of him in court became the subject of intense scrutiny. The most widely circulated photo — posted on a microblog newly created by the Jinan court for the trial — showed Bo in a crisp, white shirt, standing between two officers. On his face was a slight, enigmatic smile.
To many online, the photo encapsulated the government’s paradoxical attempts at openness and transparency while still exerting tight control over every aspect of the event.
Many Chinese bloggers seized on the height of the guards towering beside Bo. With Bo himself a tall man, they posited, authorities must have had to look hard to find guards who could make him look small.
The skepticism online came despite authorities’ unprecedented efforts to transform what traditionally would have been a highly secretive trial into a seemingly transparent and spontaneous affair. The live blogging by the government also included tweets in English by state-run Xinhua News Agency and CCTV, one of the few media outlets allowed in the otherwise closed courtroom. But with Twitter strictly banned throughout China, the tweets for some only highlighted the irony of the government’s attempts at transparency.