Bo Xilai's son urges fair trial for dad

BEIJING - The son of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai has urged the authorities to grant his father the opportunity to defend himself when he stands trial tomorrow, The New York Times said yesterday.

In a statement to the newspaper, Mr Bo Guagua said he has been denied contact with his parents for the past 18 months, saying he "can only surmise the conditions of their clandestine detention and the adversity they each endure in solitude".

His statement came two days before his father, a charismatic senior leader of the Communist Party whose ambitions to reach the country's apex of power were dashed last year, goes on trial.

The older Bo has been charged with corruption, accepting bribes and abuse of power, in China's most divisive and dramatic case in almost four decades.

Bo Xilai's wife, Gu Kailai, and Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun have been jailed over a scandal stemming from the November 2011 murder of British businessman Neil Heywood in the south-western city where Bo had been the Communist Party boss.

Mr Bo Guagua said in the statement: "I hope that, in my father's upcoming trial, he is granted the opportunity to answer his critics and defend himself without constraints of any kind.

"However, if my well-being has been bartered for my father's acquiescence or my mother's further cooperation, then the verdict will clearly carry no moral weight."

Media reports have suggested that Gu could appear as a witness for the prosecution and may already have provided evidence against her husband.

Two sources familiar with the situation told Reuters on Monday that Gu would agree to provide evidence against her husband at his trial only if a deal had been reached to protect their son.

A deal in which Bo Xilai is swiftly convicted and sent to jail, sparing him the death penalty and with no repercussions for his son, would be in the interest of China's new leadership, which wants the trial to be concluded without causing fissures in the ruling Communist Party, sources close to the government said.

Mr Bo Guagua remains in the United States, where he is preparing for his first year at Columbia Law School in New York.

He said Gu has "overcome unimaginable tribulation after the sudden collapse of her physical health in 2006 and subsequent seclusion", in his first comments about his mother's condition since the scandal first broke.

"My mother, who is now silenced and defenceless, cannot respond to the opportunistic detractors who attack her reputation with impunity," he said.

"Although it is of little comfort to my anxiety about her state of health, I know that she will continue to absorb all that she is accused of with dignity and quiet magnanimity."

At her trial in August last year, Gu admitted to poisoning Mr Heywood and alleged that a business dispute between them had led the Briton to threaten Mr Bo Guagua, according to official accounts published by the state media.