Microblogging Bo's trial hailed as historic transparency

Updated: 2013-08-24 21:11


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JINAN - Media home and abroad have hailed the openness and transparency showed by real-time online broadcasts and updates from Bo Xilai's trial in an East China court.

The public also generally believe that this showcases the Communist Party of China's (CPC) resolve in combating corruption and that the move represents historic progress for the rule of law in China.

"The court is using new media for timely and accurate disclosure of important information from the trial in transcripts and pictures. This greatly satisfies the concerns the general public have in Bo's case and also indicates the new central leadership's confidence in governance, rule of law and its anti-graft crackdown," said an article written by Yang Fei on the website run by the Guangming Daily.

Bo went on trial on Thursday in the intermediate people's court in Jinan, capital of Shandong Province, for alleged bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power. The trial entered a third day on Saturday.

Bo, 64, is former secretary of the Chongqing Municipal Committee of the CPC and a former member of the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau.

Prosecutors said Bo accepted bribes worth about 21.79 million yuan ($3.5 million) from businessmen Tang Xiaolin and Xu Ming and embezzled five million yuan in public funds from the Dalian government. He was also accused of abusing power when dealing with his wife Bogu Kailai's murder case and the defection of his associate, Wang Lijun, in 2012.

The trial has been attended by relatives of Bo, journalists, lawmakers and political advisors and people from all walks of life. During the adjournments in the morning and afternoon, the spokesman for the court briefed journalists on the proceedings.

The court tweeted real-time posts on the trial proceedings on its official microblog account, which is hosted by popular Twitter-like service Sina Weibo and has about 478,000 followers as of Saturday.

By Saturday evening, the Jinan Intermediate People's Court had tweeted more than 110 Weibo posts, including transcripts, pictures and audio and video files of evidence.

Many of the posts have been retweeted thousands of times and a picture of Bo in the courthouse on Thursday morning has been retweeted more than 69,000 times.

This real-time broadcasting shows that the central leadership lives up to the pledge of cracking down on not only "flies" but also "tigers" -- lower-level officials and senior leaders, according to the Guangming Daily website article.

At a plenary meeting of the CPC's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection in January, Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC's Central Committee, said the Party should crack down on "tigers" and "flies" at the same time by dealing with the illegal activities of officials and tackling malpractice and corruption cases.

An article on bbc.co.uk said the broadcasts were "an unprecedented display of transparency for a trial in China, and therefore drew massive attention from the Chinese public."

"The information released on Sina Weibo is very comprehensive, especially about details and processes of Bo's graft," said Li Mingfeng, a company employee in Jinan.

"The detailed account could help our average citizens to distinguish ourselves and it can also serve as a warning for corrupt officials," said Li, who has been closely following the developments on Sina Weibo, which has more than 500 million users overall.

A commentary on the website of the Ta Kung Pao newspaper in Hong Kong said of the Chinese authorities' microblogging that there is a need to meet demand for information to lead public opinion rather than allow true and fake news to mingle together on microblogging sites.

In recent years, the Chinese authorities have been seeking to display openness and transparency by making public the trials of major cases via various means and the microblogging service provides a new mass-oriented, interactive platform, according to experts.

"The real-time microblog broadcasting strikes a balance between information openness and courtroom order, and satisfies the public's right to know," wrote Shen Yang, a professor at Wuhan University, on Sina Weibo. This is a landmark event for trials being made public through new media, Shen added.

"Such openness and transparency have never happened in similar cases in the past. This case is destined to have special historic significance," said Xie Youping, head of Fudan University's justice and litigation system research center. "Through the real-time posts, we feel like we are present at the hearing."

Bo was removed from the Party chief post of Chongqing in March 2012, and later removed from all positions and expelled from the CPC over suspicions of serious violation of Party discipline.

The investigation of Bo's case was transferred to judicial organs in July and the Jinan People's Procuratorate instituted a public prosecution.