The son of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai has urged authorities to grant his father the opportunity to defend himself when he stands trial later this week, the New York Times said on Tuesday.
In a statement to the newspaper, 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".
The younger Bo's statement came two days before his father, a charismatic senior leader of the Communist Party whose ambitions to join the country's apex of power were dashed last year, goes on trial.
He is charged with corruption, accepting bribes and abuse of power, in China's most divisive and dramatic case in almost four decades. Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, and his police chief, Wang Lijun, have both been jailed over a scandal stemming from the November 2011 murder of British businessman Neil Heywood in the southwestern city of Chongqing, where Bo was Communist Party boss.
"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," Guagua said in the statement.
"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 Bo. Two sources familiar with the situation told Reuters on Monday that Gu would only agree to provide evidence against Bo at his trial if a deal had been reached to protect their son.
A deal in which Bo can be swiftly convicted and sent to jail, sparing him a 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 open ruptures in the ruling Communist Party, sources close to the government say.
Guagua remains in the United States, where he is preparing for his first year at Columbia Law School in New York. Though his friends and acquaintances have said he would like to challenge the negative perception of his parents more forcefully, Guagua has said very little publicly because he fears it could only make matters worse.
Guagua 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 defenseless, cannot respond to the opportunistic detractors that 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 Heywood and alleged that a business dispute between them led the Briton to threaten Guagua, according to official accounts published by state media.