China high-flyer Bo brought low as trial finally nears

China high-flyer Bo brought low as trial finally nears
Bo Xilai.

CHONGQING - Once one of China's highest-flying politicians, Bo Xilai will find himself in a criminal dock Thursday on trial for bribery and abuse of power in the country's highest-profile prosecution in decades.

His downfall began when a British businessman was found dead in a hilltop hotel room. As the drama finally nears its conclusion, the Communist Party is touting it as proof of its intent to crack down on corruption.

The scandal - which saw Bo's police chief flee to a US consulate and his wife convicted of murder - erupted in the buildup to a once-in-a-decade leadership handover that saw Xi Jinping elevated as communist chief in November.

Analysts say Bo's revival of the trappings of Mao-era China - including mass concerts singing "red" songs - while party chief in the mega-city of Chongqing alarmed sections of China's top leadership, who saw the campaigns as a brash return to a bygone era of strongman rule.

In Chongqing, winding roads lead to the Lijing Holiday hotel atop the forested Nanshan hill. In one of several villas with sweeping views of the sprawling city, Bo's wife Gu Kailai is said to have poisoned her former business partner Neil Heywood in November 2011.

The hotel still sees a steady stream of wealthy visitors who dine in a rustic restaurant - but staff denied the existence of the room where court documents say the murder happened.

"There is no room 1605," a hotel receptionist who declined to be named told AFP. "I do not know what you are talking about."

Bo, the "princeling" son of one of China's most revered revolutionary generals, met Heywood when he was mayor of Dalian in the late 1990s.

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