BEIJING — Ousted Communist Party official Bo Xilai admitted in court Saturday that he had made mistakes that shamed his country and reacted poorly when his police chief told him his wife had committed murder. But he denied being he guilty of criminal actions.
On the third day of a trial that has riveted many in China, more details emerged about the confrontation between Bo and his former police chief, Wang Lijun, that made Wang so fearful he fled to a U.S. consulate, disclosed the devastating link between Bo’s wife and the death of a British businessman and triggered one of the biggest political scandals in the history of modern China.
“I wasn’t able to react calmly at a critical moment and made serious misjudgments,” Bo said, according to court transcripts. Bo said he felt “ashamed” about Wang’s attempted defection at the consulate and the potential damage it entailed for the party and for China’s image.
A once-rising political star who ruled the southwestern city of Chongqing as party chief, Bo is facing charges of bribery, corruption and abuse of power. Many believe a guilty verdict has been predetermined by party leaders, but that has not dampened interest in his trial, especially after the government began posting online transcripts, videos and photos from the courtroom proceedings in a surprising live blog unprecedented in China’s legal history.
Testifying in court in the eastern city of Jinan on Saturday, Wang accused Bo of covering up Gu’s murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, an associate of the Bo family. Wang said investigators in his police department were pressured to stay quiet, including one officer who was brought to Bo’s home and forced to sign a document absolving Gu of any role in Heywood’s death.
Wang described a confrontation with Bo during which Bo said he could not accept Wang’s assertions that Gu killed Heywood. He said Bo punched him in the left ear so hard it left his mouth bleeding and liquid dripping out of his ear.
Wang explained the reasoning that led him to flee to the U.S. consulate. “It was very dangerous at the time,” he said. “I was the victim of violence, and then close colleagues and those investigating the case had disappeared.”
Defending himself against the allegation that he embezzled $817,000 in state funds, Bo disputed one man’s testimony that he was present when Bo discussed it on the phone with his wife. Bo said he knew better than to talk about sensitive matters by phone, a reference to widespread surveillance in China.
“Everyone who knows me knows that when talking to people [in person] I tell them to turn off their phones first,” Bo said.
While responding to a question about whether his family needed money, Bo also acknowledged publicly for the first time that he had committed adultery. Bo said his unfaithfulness prompted Gu to leave with their son for England, but he denied that left the family desperate for money, saying Gu was earning plenty from her legal practice.
The trial will resume Sunday.
Li Qi contributed to this report.