Defendant Claims His Underwear Is 50 Years Old

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Faced with evidence that he and his family lived in luxury on a politician's salary, Bo Xilai insisted in court that he is a simple man, according to reports yesterday. Bo, who was formerly head of the Communist Party in Chongqing, has been on trial since last week on charges of bribery, embezzlement, and abuse of power, though many believe the charges are at least in part politically motivated. Bo has been outspoken in his defense, and regaled the nation on Monday with dramatic testimony providing previously undisclosed facts.

Such as the age of his underwear.

Prosecutors claimed that Bo and his family enjoyed villas on the French Riviera, private jet flights, and lavish meals, all provided by wealthy businessmen and not exactly the sort of thing Marx had in mind, if I remember correctly. They also suggested the family spent large amounts of money on its wardrobe, a charge to which Bo strenously objected.

"I am personally not interested in clothing," he testified. "The long johns I am wearing now were bought for me by my mother in the 1960s." (Unfortunately the long johns do not appear to have been analyzed by experts in order to test this claim.) "[T]he jacket I'm wearing, and the suits in my wardrobe, were all produced by a township enterprise in Xinjin county in Dalian," which I assume would mean they are not particularly expensive, although probably more recent.

One report notes that "long johns are commonly worn during China's harsh winters," but doesn't speculate as to why Bo might have been wearing them in a courtroom in August. The trial has been taking place in Jinan, about 250 miles south of Beijing. Jinan is surrounded by mountains, and this topography plus high humidity "leads to particularly oppressive summer weather," with "the city being named as a candidate for the fourth 'furnace,'" a term apparently used to describe certain cities in China where it is hot as hell in the summer. It was 94° in the Fourth Furnace yesterday, with 68 percent humidity, which works out to a heat index of 117° F (47° C). Not exactly long-john weather.

Maybe they have the courtroom thermostat turned down to "harsh Chinese winter," but if not I suspect based on the above either that Bo was not wearing long johns as he claimed ("the long johns I am wearing now") or that he wore them only to be able to make that statement. I don't know whether the prosecution cross-examined him on this. I guess you're not supposed to ask questions to which you don't already know the answer.

On the other hand, anyone sitting anywhere near Mr. Bo could probably testify to whether he was wearing 50-year-old long johns on a day when the heat index hit 117° F.

In other dramatic testimony, Bo said that the reason his former deputy Wang Lijun fled to a U.S. consulate is that he was after Bo's wife. Supposedly, Wang wrote her a love letter that he personally delivered, making her angry, "which is why Wang slapped himself eight times in front of her in a symbol of self-flagellation." The official story is that Wang fled after telling Bo his wife murdered somebody, a crime of which she was later convicted, but Bo insisted the real reason was the self-flagellation-inducing love triangle.

I would like to welcome China to the world of goofy high-publicity trials, and hope we can look forward to many, many more.