For many years after Chairman Mao’s death in 1976, show trials were straightforward affairs. For their role in the devastating Cultural Revolution, the Gang of Four were simply charged with “anti-party activities” and convicted. Today, a political trial needs to take into consideration many more factors. […]
In straining to maintain the fiction, prosecutors made obvious procedural mistakes, used unfairly obtained evidence and brought forward witnesses who were clearly testifying under coercion. Conducted in this self-defeating manner, both the intent of the trial and the eventual result came off as ridiculous. Chinese will never be convinced that Bo received a fair hearing, because they knew the full truth wasn’t being exposed. […]
Cadres were supposed to learn that bribe-taking wouldn’t be tolerated, no matter how illustrious the official. Rather than encouraging party members to be honest or hardworking, though, the trial has taught them above all to do whatever it takes to stay on the right side of the current leadership. The constitution and the law, even basic moral judgments, hardly figure in their calculations. […]
It’s interesting how Chinese quickly turned the three-finger salute Bo seemed to be giving in one courtroom picture into an emoticon. Societies in which you can’t clearly spell out the truth become rich with symbols, suggestions and parallels. […]
Chinese appreciate the twisted forms of artificial rocks and bonsai, recognizing in them a metaphor for Chinese politics. When harsh living conditions eliminate space for natural growth, crooked shapes are formed in a struggle to survive.
Over the coming years, perhaps the Communist government will finally face real questions about its legitimacy, and realize that it can only continue to govern if supported by the constitution and true rule of law. Otherwise, if it continues to reject any public role in its decision making and hopes to distract Chinese with spectacles like the Bo case, the regime will only hasten its own end. Bo’s drama may soon end, but the regime is still on trial.