BEIJING - The trial of a maverick Communist Party leader, which has captivated millions of Chinese nationwide through an official and unprecedented courtroom micro-blog, supplied further drama Saturday, when a former police chief took the stand as a witness for the prosecution.
Former Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun's appearance in court Saturday, on the trial's third day, reunited a highly controversial pair whose acrimonious fallout in February 2012 sparked the biggest political scandal in China for decades. Bo Xilai, 64, formerly the party boss of Chongqing, China's largest municipality, faces charges of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power.
The charge involving abuse of power relates to a murder committed by his wife, who has already been sentenced, and directly involves Bo's treatment of Wang.
A martial arts expert, whose earlier exploits as a police chief in northeastern China inspired a TV drama, Wang helped enforce one of Bo's most celebrated and notorious campaigns - a crackdown on organized crime in Chongqing that critics say ran roughshod over the law and human rights.
When Wang told Bo about the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood in February 2012 - after it had already been covered up for three months - Bo angrily upbraided Wang, boxing his ears, and later demoting him.
"I thought he was being duplicitous. I have zero tolerance for duplicity," Bo said. "I slapped him in the face."
Wang then fled to a neighboring city, where he tried to get asylum at the U.S. Consulate. He has since been sentenced to 15 years in prison for "bending the law for selfish ends," defection, abuse of power and bribe-taking.
"It was dangerous at the time," Wang told the court. "I was subject to violence, and my staff working closely with me and those working on the case disappeared."
Bo's abuse-of-power charge represents perhaps the most anticipated part of the trial, which has already lasted longer than many observers expected, and will enter its fourth day Sunday.
Earlier Saturday, Bo admitted legal responsibility in an embezzlement charge, and further criticized his wife, Gu Kailai, once a high-flying lawyer, who has given testimony in written form and recorded video.
Both Bo and the court had requested Gu, without success, to appear in court as a witness.
The transcripts of court proceedings Saturday provided more detail about the elite and troubled family life of the house of Bo.
Having called his wife "insane" Friday, and claiming she said she felt heroic as a famous imperial assassin after killing Heywood, Bo followed up Saturday by calling her "relatively weak" and keen to accuse him as a way to cut her own sentence.
Bo also admitted that an affair he had with another woman in the late 1990s had angered his wife to the point where she took their son abroad to study.