The appeal hearing of Bo Xilai, the disgraced Chinese politician linked to the murder of the British businessman Neil Heywood, has been held in secret, The Daily Telegraph understands. Bo, who was toppled by the fallout from Heywood's death in 2011, went on trial in August for alleged bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power.
Last month Bo was sentenced to life in prison, a decision he appealed against. Chinese state media said the five-day trial was an "historic" example of transparency and a victory for the rule of law. But on Monday promises of an open judicial process, the former Chongqing party chief's appeal had been held behind closed doors. Court officials travelled to the undisclosed detention centre where Bo is being held to hear his appeal, which included reviewing written and video evidence, the source said.
The appeal process effectively began on the final day of Bo's trial, when his legal team lodged a formal request. "[The judge] went to see Bo, heard from the defendant, exchanged views and received written materials from the defendant," said the source, who asked not to be named. "The judge also watched video from the first trial, examined relevant documents and asked for the advice of the lawyers."
A second source, Li Xiaolin, a lawyer close to the family of Gu Kailai, Bo's wife who was jailed for Heywood's murder, said he believed the appeal had already finished after being held "behind closed doors". Yesterday Chinese state media reported that a decision on the appeal would be issued by Shandong province high court at 10am on Friday in the city of Jinan.
Experts said the decision to hold Bo's appeal far from the media spotlight underlined the case's political nature and reflected how senior Communist leaders had been wrong-footed by the defendant's outspokenness in court, even though after the trial, Chinese media claimed that "media home and abroad had hailed the openness and transparency" of proceedings, pointing to "real time" updates given on a court blog. Bo "erupted in anger" following his sentencing, the South China Morning Post reported last month, shouting, "unfair" and "unjust". Professor Steve Tsang, the director of the University of Nottingham's China Policy Institute, said he believed that Communist leaders were likely to have decided to deprive Bo of any further platform.
"They must have had a deal with Bo Xilai before the trial and thought he would stick to the script. Bo Xilai clearly didn't," he said. -- Chinese activists have demanded the release of Wang Gongquan, a jailed billionaire, accusing Beijing of waging a "hopeless" campaign of "political persecution" against its critics.
Wang, a venture capitalist who supports a group called the New Citizens' Movement, was arrested on Sunday, accused of "gathering crowds to disturb public order".