The party also wants to present a spectacle of justice for the Chinese public and a warning to ambitious politicians not to defy the central leadership.
“They want to say “you have to obey the central leadership’,” said Dali Yang, head of the University of Chicago Center in Beijing. “It’s not simply about corruption. It’s also about central-local relations, about the need for senior local officials … to pay heed to the central government’s guidelines and not try to build independent kingdoms.”
Authorities are trying to minimize potential disruption during the trial.
Fang Hong, a Chongqing forestry official who was put in a labor camp for a year for criticizing Bo, was taken by police to a lodge in the mountains where he was told to stay until the trial is completed. Fang had said last month on a microblog that he wanted to attend the proceeding.
Song Yangbiao, a Beijing reporter in Beijing known as a supporter of Bo, was detained in early August after he posted a call online for people to protest outside the courthouse. A writer who uses the pen name Lu Qi and describes himself as a close friend of Song said the reporter was released on bail after about a week.
Official announcements about the charges against Bo have given no details.
But a person with direct knowledge of the case said Bo is accused of accepting bribes amounting to more than 20 million yuan ($3.3 million) and embezzling 5 million yuan ($820,000) while he was in a previous post in the eastern city of Dalian.
The abuse of power allegation is related to the cover-up of the murder by his wife in late 2011 and the defection attempt by his former police chief, Wang Lijun, said the person. He asked not to be identified further due to the case’s sensitivity.
Analysts say the charges underscore the party’s attempt to keep the scope of allegations against Bo limited in order to prevent his case from undermining confidence in party leaders or their political system.
“It’s almost like open heart surgery, or laser surgery,” said Kerry Brown, a former British diplomat in Beijing and head of the China Studies Center at the University of Sydney. “You want to do the operation with as little collateral damage as possible.”
Questions that appear to have been left unaddressed include whether Bo should be held accountable for waging an anti-gang crackdown in Chongqing that ran roughshod over the legal system.
The crackdown resulted in 2,000 arrests, 500 prosecutions and 13 executions, including the former director of the city’s judicial bureau. Allegations of torture and shakedowns by law enforcement officials were common.
Bo also appears to have been spared some of the more serious accusations faced by his former police chief and right-hand man, Wang, including carrying out illegal surveillance.
Wang was convicted of putting people under electronic surveillance, which suggested he used bugging, wiretapping or computer monitoring. Websites abroad that follow Chinese politics said Wang was helping Bo gather information on other leaders.
Zhang, the veteran defense lawyer, said authorities appeared to be avoiding mentioning this charge even though Bo might be to blame in order to skirt larger questions about political factions and party infighting.