JINAN - Fallen politician Bo Xilai put up a feisty defence on Thursday as he faced China's most political trial in decades, saying he was framed in one of the bribery charges against him and had admitted to it against his will during interrogation.
The 64-year-old former Communist Party chief of the southwestern city of Chongqing has been charged with illegally taking almost 27 million yuan (S$5.6 million), corruption and abuse of power and will almost certainly be found guilty.
But Bo's colourful denial of one of the charges and strong language as he made his first public appearance since being ousted early last year suggests he will not allow the trial to proceed as scripted by China's political masters.
President Xi Jinping is seeking unstinted support from the Communist Party as he seeks to push reforms that will rebalance the economy, and will want Bo's trial to be finished quickly and with a minimum of fuss.
Bo's downfall has pitted supporters of his Maoist-themed egalitarian social programmes against the capitalist-leaning economic road taken by the leadership in Beijing, exposing divisions within the ruling party as well as Chinese society.
His trial in the eastern city of Jinan marks the culmination of China's biggest political scandal since the 1976 downfall of the Gang of Four at the end of the Cultural Revolution.
Appearing sombre, a clean-shaven Bo, whose hair looked like it was still dyed black, stood in the dock without handcuffs, according to a picture issued by the court. He was dressed in a long-sleeved white shirt and stood with his hands crossed in front of him, flanked by two policemen.
Foreign media were not allowed to attend the trial and Bo's remarks were carried on the court's official microblog, so are likely to have been highly edited. Still, the transcripts provided by the court mark a level of openness that is unprecedented for a trial in China.
"Regarding the matter of Tang Xiaolin giving me money three times, I once admitted it against my will during the Central Discipline Inspection Commission's investigation against me," Bo said, referring to the party's top anti-graft body.
"(I'm) willing to bear the legal responsibilities, but at that time I did not know the circumstances of these matters: my mind was a blank," he added.
Bo was charged with receiving about 21.8 million yuan (S$4.51 million) in bribes from Xu Ming, a plastics-to-property entrepreneur who is a close friend and is in custody, and Tang, the general manager of Hong Kong-based export company Dalian International Development Ltd, the court said.
Bo called Tang "a mad dog" who wanted to "frame me out of consideration for his own interests".
"This evidence has little to do with my criminality," Bo said. "I was just hoodwinked. I thought it was all official business."
Bo received the bribes through his wife, Gu Kailai, and his son, Bo Guagua, the court said, citing the indictment.