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Trial opens for China's one-time political star Bo Xilai

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The trial of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai, a one-time rising star of the Communist party, began Thursday, as the new political leadership of Xi Jinping is trying to show its resolve to fight corruption and solidify power.

Bo, who was expelled from the party last year in China's biggest political scandal in decades, is standing open trial at the Jinan Intermediate People's Court in Shandong Province on charges of taking bribes, embezzlement and abuse of power, appearing in public for the first time in 17 months.

The court, which took a rare step in China of putting a stream of posts on its Sina Weibo microblog to disclose the trial's proceedings, said the hearings will last two days.

The 64-year-old former party leader for the major Chinese city of Chongqing had been a member of the country's 25-member Politburo.

Before the scandal erupted, first triggered by his former aide's flight to the U.S. consulate in nearby Chengdu in February 2012, Bo had been tipped as a contender for one of the seven seats on the party's ruling core -- the Politburo's Standing Committee -- in China's once-in-a-decade change of leaders in fall of that year.

The handling of the trial is a delicate task for the new government of Xi as Bo remains popular among some ordinary citizens and conservative "leftists" who feel left out of China's economic boom, as he had made efforts to narrow income gaps.

Chinese authorities have so far disclosed very limited details of his charges.

On Thursday, the indictment disclosed at the court said Bo had abused his power in connection with the November 2011 murder of British businessman Neil Heywood by his wife, Gu Kailai, who was later sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve.

The indictment also said the total amount of Bo's bribe-taking and embezzlement came to around 26 million yuan (about $4.2 million).

Bo, a son of a late prime minister, also served in the past as China's commerce minister and as governor of Liaoning Province, before which he was mayor of its capital Dalian.

His former aide, Wang Lijun, who was police chief and vice mayor of Chongqing and exposed the murder of the British businessman, was sentenced to 15 years in prison last September by a Chengdu court "for bending the law for selfish ends, defection, abuse of power and bribe-taking."

==Kyodo

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/kyodo-news-international/130821/trial-opens-chinas-one-time-political-star-bo-xilai