BEIJING (AP) — Much of China was riveted to the stream of microblog updates from the trial of disgraced politician Bo Xilai — even a TV anchorwoman on a live national program checked her cellphone for the latest posting.
The Jinan Intermediate People's Court in eastern China began its blow-by-blow updates on its Sina Weibo microblog 21 minutes before the trial opened Thursday and updated steadily through the day, including details on testimony, photos and even an audio clip from a key witness.
"When the court's Weibo is the only source of information about the trial, is it wrong to check my cellphone?" anchorwoman Yang Shu of Phoenix TV wrote on her own microblog. "It's better to announce the information with my head down than having nothing to say with my head up. This is the era of new media."
Followers of the court's Weibo postings jumped from 70,000 to more than 300,000 during the day, and some posts were reposted tens of thousands of times, including a photo of Bo standing trial in a white shirt with his hands crossed in front of himself without a pair of cuffs.
The display of openness was unprecedented in China, where this kind of political trial is normally considered orchestrated political theater with a foregone conclusion of guilt. Some reporters for state media were also allowed in the courtroom.
Zhang Zhi'an, a journalism professor at Sun Yet-sen University in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, said the posts were a clever move by the court in that they offered the appearance of openness while retaining the control of information.
"The postings could be selective," Zhang said.
Beijing-based rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang said the posts did not make up for the fact that Bo had been barred from meeting with his family for 18 months and could not choose his own lawyers.