Open nature of Bo's trial causes a stir in China

Open nature of Bo's trial causes a stir in China
Journalists filming a screen displaying the microblog page of the court where disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai is standing trial, in Jinan, Shandong province, on Thursday. Analysts are divided over whether the trial will be used as a template for similarly ranked leaders, or whether it is a one-off thing.

CHINA - The updates came fast and furious: the almost real-time transcripts of courtroom exchanges, as well as photos of the accused and people attending the trial.

In a rare move, a Chinese court provided live updates via its Twitter-like Weibo account of the trial of former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai, which began Thursday.

This new "openness" has prompted some to wonder whether China would do the same for similar cases involving former top officials in the future.

Analysts are divided. Wuhan University law professor Qin Qianhong believes that Bo's trial might be used as a template for similarly ranked leaders.

Others believe that this trial may be a one-off, given the special circumstances surrounding Bo, one of China's most flamboyant and controversial politicians.

Renmin University political analyst Zhang Ming told The Straits Times: "Being open would improve the justice system, but I'm not hopeful as China is still far from being a law-based society."

In Bo's case, the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chose to be unusually open for several unique reasons, analysts said.

First, the party wanted to make a public show that justice was being upheld. Bo faces charges of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power.

Second, Chinese leaders are hoping that the trial would help to heal ruptures within the party as a result of Bo's ejection from power, said Professor Zhang.

"Bo still has many admirers in China and he remains a divisive figure in the party, where many are still his supporters," he added.

"So there's a need to be seen as above board and fair."

Until his sacking as Chongqing party boss in March last year and subsequent ejection from the Politburo, Bo had been vying for a seat in the party's apex Politburo Standing Committee (PSC).

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