BEIJING — A trial already full of sensational details bloomed into outright soap opera on its last day, as ousted Communist Party official Bo Xilai claimed that the real cause of his downfall was a secret, forbidden love between his wife and his most trusted adviser.
The court case, now awaiting a verdict, has riveted the nation for five days, with the unprecedented and highly strategic dissemination by authorities of court transcripts, revelations about the lavish lives of party elites and dramatic testimony from Bo’s former associates, as well as his wife, who is imprisoned for murder.
Through it all, Bo, 64, has played his role as defiant defendant with surprising verve. But he saved the biggest drama for last.
In the most riveting portion of Monday’s closing arguments, Bo said the real reason his former right-hand lieutenant, Wang Lijun, fled to a U.S. Consulate last year and divulged secrets that toppled Bo was because Wang secretly pined for Bo’s wife.
The two were “as close as glue and paint,” Bo said, using a common Chinese saying for romantically involved couples. “He hurt my family. He hurt my feelings.”
According to Monday’s court transcripts, Bo said he found Wang’s shoes in his home after his wife, Gu Kailai, brought them back with other personal effects of Wang’s. In anger, Bo banned Wang, his former police chief, from his home.
But Wang was so overwhelmed with love for Bo’s wife that he wrote his feelings in a letter and personally delivered it to Bo’s home, Bo said.
Gu at that point was angry with Wang as well, Bo said, which is why Wang slapped himself eight times in front of her in a symbol of self-flagellation.
According to Bo, his wife was taken aback by the gesture and called Wang abnormal. Wang, the defendant recounted, responded with a line worthy of a romantic comedy: that he was abnormal before, but only now, with Gu before him, was he truly his normal self.
Little did Wang know, however, that Bo had observed the whole thing in hiding and burst into the scene to catch Wang red-handed, confiscating the love letter, Bo said.
Bo himself acknowledged the overwrought nature of his version of events, comparing it twice to a “soap opera episode.”
Before Monday, the official narrative — according to Wang’s testimony and authorities — was that Wang fled to the U.S. Consulate after confronting Bo with knowledge that his wife murdered a British businessman. One of the charges Bo faces is covering up that murder.
But on Monday, Bo argued that it was a twisted love triangle that sent Wang fleeing to the consulate.
Bo previously expressed remorse in court for slapping Wang during an argument about Gu’s involvement with the murdered British man. He lamented that Wang’s disclosures at the U.S. Consulate had brought shame to the party and the country.
But on Monday, Bo refused to bear sole responsibility, saying, “One slap does not a traitor make.”
In stark contrast to the staid speeches of the party’s typical apparatchiks, Bo — who built his career on charisma — filled his closing argument with similarly quotable gems.
He protested that the court had forced his wife to testify against her husband.
He waxed magnanimous, praising his treatment by the people of Shandong province, where the trial was held.
He attempted humility, apologizing for personal faults (“I know I’m not a perfect man”) and citing his undergarments as proof that his lifestyle is not as lavish as the corruption charges suggest (“The long cotton underwear I’m wearing now was bought by my mother in the 1960s”).
Bo even complimented those prosecuting him and threw in a conciliatory note of defense for his wife: “I’ve heard these past few days that you took lots of money from others that you shouldn’t have. But I also heard most of the money you took is actually legitimate.”
Meanwhile, prosecutors pressed the judges to mete out the maximum punishment on the three charges against him: bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power.
Most analysts and party officials believe that a guilty verdict was determined even before the trial began.
The court is expected to rule on Bo’s case in the coming weeks. State-run television CCTV said on the trial’s first day that a verdict was likely by early September.
Liu Liu contributed to this report.