Trial of Bo Xilai in China is undoubtedly political

Angus Walker

Former ITV News Correspondent

Bo Xilai was seen in public for the first time in 17 months when he appeared in court. Credit: RTV

From the early hours reporters and crews watched the gates of Jinan court in eastern China.

Just before eight a convoy of minibuses swept past the rows of police officers standing to attention. Bo Xilai was inside hidden from view by the dark windows.

Even as a prisoner, this former Politburo member, a so called 'princeling', the son of a revolutionary leader who became an elite Communist Party Secretary got exclusive treatment.

The court case began and is strictly controlled by the state run court. Only a live weibo (chinese twitter) feed is allowed to relay what's going on inside the courtroom.

We've been told that no video pictures will be released today. Despite claims in the government controlled media that the trial will be "open".

This is the biggest trial for decades in China. The Communist Party is in the process of convicting one of its own.

Make no mistake, although the charges relate to bribery, corruption and abuse of power, including an allegation of covering up the murder of British business consultant Neil Heywood, this is political.

The transcript that's been released reveals that Bo Xilai is accused of taking the equivalent of £2.5 million in bribes, embezzling half a million pounds. A Chinese colleague joked that those figures would make him one of the cleanest senior politicians in China.

Roads around the court have been closed, crowds held back, the authorities know that this trial exposes the political tensions within Chinese society.

I spoke to some people who supported Bo and his public campaigns for a return to Maoist policies, this made him popular and that's dangerous in a country run by committee. He stood out and there are enemies.

As we spoke to one man he was bundled away by the police, another man in a wheelchair was forcibly pushed away and a small girl cried as her father was forced into a police van and driven away. Any shows of solidarity with Bo are not tolerated.

Bo told the court, according to the official transcript: "I hope the judges can hear the trial in a reasonable and fair manner and follow legal procedures of our country".

A statement which sounds carefully scripted. Bois rejecting some of the charges against him but it's clear what the verdictwill be - it's just a question of what sentence he will get.

China's ruling party is hoping to close the case, control the coverage of this historic trial and clamp down on any support that Bo Xilai still has.