China faces protests over Bo trial
Activists, academics and dissidents are questioning China's purge of Bo Xilai, demanding the rule of law be followed allowing the disgraced leader to defend himself.
China's leadership is desperate to move beyond the scandal involving the former member of its Politburo that has drawn worldwide attention, and some say it is doing so at the expense of standard legal procedures.
Left-leaning supporters of Bo wrote an open letter to the National People's Congress urging it to allow Bo to have his say. The petition has begun to draw broader and somewhat unlikely support, attracting signatures from exiled dissidents and rights activists who do not consider themselves Bo supporters.
The legislature's standing committee was expected to expel Bo during a four-day meeting, a move that would strip Bo of his legislative immunity and pave the way for his criminal prosecution, probably in a swift trial.
The letter, which also has circulated on activist websites that are blocked in China, urges the congress not to expel Bo until he has the chance to address allegations against him.
"They should give Bo a chance to defend himself. The procedure has to be just," said Zeng Yuan, a local rights activists from Chengdu who said he signed the petition even though he does not support Bo.
"A Politburo member has been silenced just like that? This has gone against what the constitution says about human rights," Zeng said.
Bo was one of China's best-known politicians until he fell from grace earlier this year when a close aide disclosed that Bo's wife had murdered British businessman Neil Heywood. He has been out of sight, presumably detained, since mid-March. He was expelled from the party last month.
Authorities have said they intend to charge Bo with obstruction of justice connected with the Heywood murder, as well as corruption and illicit sexual affairs that go against Communist Party rules.
Bo's reputation for championing social fairness and communist nostalgia made him popular among poorer Chinese and those who identify themselves as member of the new left - believers in a strong authoritarian government that promotes more egalitarian economic and social policies.