Local Airlines Can Begin Late Night Operations – NAMA

The Director General of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency, (NAMA) Nnamdi Udo, on Saturday made an open call to operators of domestic airlines to commence late night flights as equipment to enable such operations are now available on request.

Speaking on Channels Television’s Saturday breakfast programme, Sunrise, Mr Anuforom said for “airlines who want to operate late … infrastructures are adequately available for (anytime) operation but they should notify us. It’s important Nigerians know this, so that nobody thinks what’s obtainable in New York is not available here.”

On Friday night, Enugu and Owerri had passengers up until 11pm, he added.

He admitted that most airports have “sunrise to sunset” operations but “today we have enough infrastructure for airlines to go in there (airports) anytime they want,” especially since traffic has increased as a result of the festive season.

Speaking about the loan obtained from China, Mr Udoh said it is being used to sustain the infrastructure which is existing as well as ensure total radar coverage, instrument landing system, air-field landing system in the aviation sector.

Backing up the Aviation Minister’s comments regarding the development in the sector, Director General of Nigerian Meteorological Agency, (NIMET) Mr Anthony Anuforum said that “everything we are doing is the implementation of the aviation master-plan.”

“We have acquired a wide range of infrastructure satellite image receivers, upper-air monitoring equipment and so on.”

According to the DG, six Doppler Radar Readers have been purchased while two have been installed and are operational in Abuja and Port Harcourt, the third and fourth are being installed in Yola and Maiduguri although there are security challenges.

“We have also procured wind shear alert systems” which are already in 8 airports and plans are underway to install in two more airports.

Upper air monitoring instrument have been increased to 8.

Thunderstorm detectors are available at up to 20 locations in the country, while satellite image receivers have also been acquired.

“These are the facilities we have and these are all part of what we are implementing to ensure safety.”

“Our services in air traffic control and surveillance is world class.”

 

 

Flamengoes To Play Colombia, Mexico & China At 2014 FIFA World Cup

Nigeria’s U-17 women’s football team, the Flamengoes, have been drawn in group D for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Costa Rica.

The Flamengoes will play Colombia in their opening game, go against China in the second encounter and tackle Mexico in the final group game.

The U-17 Women’s national team qualified for the world cup finals following the withdrawal of South Sudan.

South Sudan was to host the first leg of the two-legged qualifier against Nigeria between November 1 and 3 2013 but withdrew, making their opponents, Nigeria, the first African team to qualify for the tournament.

At the last edition in Azerbaijan, the Flamengoes made it to the quarter-finals, losing the semi-final place to France in a penalty shoot-out. But it was an experience and exposure for the team, as Halimatu Ayinde finished third top scorer with four goals.

The 2014 2014 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup will be the fourth edition of the tournament since its inception as a competition in 2008 and Nigeria, Ghana and Zambia will represent Africa when the event kicks-off on the March 15 next year.

GROUP A               GROUP B

Costa Rica                 Ghana

Venezuela                 North Korea

Italy                            Germany

Zambia                       Canada                                                                                 

GROUP C                   GROUP D

New Zealand                    Mexico

Paraguay                          China

Spain                               Colombia

Japan                               Nigeria

 

BOXING: Pacquiao-Rios Fight Build Up Marred By Trainers’ Altercation

The build up to Manny Pacquiao’s fight against Brandon Rios at the weekend was marred on Wednesday by a spat between the two camps.

Pacquiao’s coach Freddie Roach and his counterpart Robert Garcia were involved in a slanging match at a gym in Macau.

Rios was booked in to train from 9am until 11am with Pacquiao due after him, and when Roach and others from the Filipino’s team arrived, he became involved in a furious exchange with Garcia and members of Rios’ entourage.

The dispute added an extra edge to the pre-fight press conference, with promoter Bob Arum joking that he would get an American television celebrity to adjudicate.

“There is a controversy and it has to be decided,” said Arum. “So I’ve asked my wife, Lovee, who’s sitting out there, to call our friend Judge Judy. And we’re going to do something on Skype and each of them will present the case and Judy will decide. I don’t know if you Chinese people, know who Judge Judy is?”

The incident didn’t seem to impress Pacquiao, who is dedicating the fight to those in the Philippines who lost their lives to Typhoon Haiyan.

“No trash talking before the fight,” he said. “It’s not a good example to all the people who are admiring boxing. For me, all I can say is that if anyone has a grievance against anyone, forgive as the Lord forgives. All I can say is this is a sport, nothing personal. We are doing our job in the ring and after that, you know, nothing personal… this is our job to perform and entertain people.

After cutting a swathe through the lighter weights between 2005 and 2011 when he won world titles from super-featherweight through to welterweight, Pacquiao has lost his last two fights, a split decision to Timothy Bradley and a sixth round knockout to fierce rival Juan Manuel Marquez.

At 34 and with 18 years and 61 fights as a professional behind him, Pacquiao is past his peak, but is keen to raise his game for what could, potentially, be the final time given what has happened in his native country.

Roach, who has long guided Pacquiao’s career, said the former eight-weight world champion was in the shape of his life having trained in the Philippines for the fight in his native General Santos City.

“We had a great training,” he said. “Manny’s been training really hard for this fight. General Santos was a great training camp. Manny was at home nd he was very comfortable. Every day was a good day. We did a lot of hard work. I came about six weeks ago but Willy McMillan ran the camp for the first two weeks and did a great job. Manny’s in the best shape of his life and I expect him to have the performance of a lifetime and I’ve never seen him look better.”

Speaking briefly about the earlier bust up, Roach sought to lay the blame on Garcia. Garcia, for his part, said that Roach was at fault.

It shouldn’t detract from what should be a fascinating encounter, especially as Rios says he has improved his discipline ahead of the fight.

Twice recently Rios came in overweight for lightweight title fights, and he lost last time out to Mike Alvarado when challenging for the interim WBO light-welterweight title.

He should be more comfortable at welterweight, and said Pacquaio would be in for a shock if he had underestimated him.

The fight is slated to hold on Saturday, November 23, at the Venetian Macao in Macau, China.

Explosions Kill 1, Injure 8 In North China City

Several small bombs exploded in front of a Communist Party building in the northern Chinese city of Taiyuan on Wednesday, killing one person and injuring another eight, state media said.

The official Xinhua news agency said what appeared to be small-scale bombs went off outside an office building of the Shanxi Provincial Committee of the Communist Party. Taiyuan is the capital of Shanxi province.

“Judging from the scattering of small metal balls, it is suspected that improvised bombs exploded,” the news agency said.

There was no immediate explanation for the attack. But such incidents are not uncommon in China and underscore the government’s worries about stability in the world’s second-largest economy, with a widening gap between rich and poor and growing anger at corruption and environmental issues.

Photos circulated on Chinese social media sites showed smoke filling the wide avenue where the party office is located and vehicles with blown out windows. Emergency trucks were parked outside what appeared to be undamaged buildings.

Xinhua cited residents as saying people in the area scattered after as many as seven blasts went off.

The microblog of the official People’s Daily newspaper said one person had been killed and another eight were injured, including one person with serious injuries.

The Chinese government blamed Islamists for an attack in central Beijing last week when a car ploughed through bystanders on the edge of Tiananmen Square and burst into flames, killing three people in the car and two bystanders.

The incidents come as China ramps up security before top leaders gather on Saturday for a plenum meeting in Beijing to discuss key reforms.

In 2011, a farmer bombed three government buildings in Fuzhou city in Jiangxi province after failing to get redress over seizure of his land. Two people and the farmer were killed.

A 42-year-old farmer with terminal lung cancer detonated a home-made device aboard a bus in Fujian province in 2005, injuring 31 and killing himself, possibly to protest prohibitive healthcare costs.

China Premier Warns Against Loose Money Policies

China needs to sustain economic growth of 7.2 percent to ensure a stable job market, Premier Li Keqiang said as he warned the government against further expanding already loose money policies.

In one of the few occasions when a top official has enunciated the minimum level of growth needed for employment, Li said calculations show China’s economy must grow 7.2 percent annually to create 10 million jobs a year.

That would cap the urban unemployment rate at around 4 percent, he said.

“We want to stabilize economic growth because we need to guarantee employment essentially,” Li was quoted by the Workers’ Daily as saying on Monday. His remarks were made at a union meeting two weeks ago but were only published in full this week.

Yet even as authorities keep an eye on growth, Li sounded a warning on easy credit supply, which he said had exceeded 100 trillion yuan ($16.4 trillion) in the world’s second-biggest economy.

“Our outstanding M2 money supply has at the end of March exceeded 100 trillion yuan, and that is already twice the size of our gross domestic product (GDP),” Li was quoting as saying.

“In other words, there is already a lot of money in the ‘pool’; to print more money may lead to inflation.”
His comments affirmed the government’s hawkish stance on inflation, and did not signal any changes in policy bias, said Tao Wang, an UBS economist.

But they underscore the fine line China must toe to create economic growth and jobs for social stability, while guarding against excesses that may hurt its fortunes in the long run.

Powered by heavy reliance on exports and investment, Chinese authorities have long criticized the country’s $8.5-trillion economy as unstable and on an unsustainable growth path.

To retool the economy, China’s new leaders have signaled they are willing to tolerate slower expansion in exchange for cleaner growth led by consumption.

A crucial meeting of top leaders from November 9 to Nov 12 will shed light on just how committed Beijing is to enforcing reforms, many of which analysts say would test politicians’ will to push through unpopular changes.

STABLE FISCAL, MONETARY POLICIES
Buffeted by sluggish export sales and in part on the government’s deliberate attempt to slow activity, China’s economy is sagging towards its slackest pace of expansion in 23 years this year, at 7.5 percent.

Li reiterated that a 7.5 percent growth target for 2013 remains intact, but noted that weak exports were a risk.
Exports can directly create about 30 million jobs and add another 70 million jobs in other related industries, Li said.

For every one percentage point that China generates in economic growth, it creates 1.3 million to 1.5 million jobs, Li said, adding that the export sector can directly or indirectly employ up to 100 million people.

“We are not seeking high-speed growth, and definitely not seeking only GDP growth. But a reasonable speed in growth is needed, and so we have ensured a reasonable range in economic expansion,” he said.

China’s urban jobless rate eased to 4.04 percent at the end of September from 4.1 percent three months earlier. It is the country’s only official unemployment indicator, but analysts say it grossly underestimates the true level of unemployment as it excludes about 260 million migrant workers from its surveys.

Li did not say that 7.2 percent in annual economic growth was the minimum the government would tolerate, but analysts have always believed that China’s leaders considered growth between 7 percent and 7.5 percent to be reasonable.
On inflation risks, however, Li was clear.

“If we loosen credit, if we expand the fiscal deficit, that would be like an old saying where one carries firewood to extinguish a fire,” Li was quoted as saying.

“And this is why we choose to persevere with stable fiscal and monetary policies.” ($1 = 6.0992 Chinese yuan)

Japan, Russia Agree To Cooperate On Security As China Rises

Japan and Russia held their first joint defense and foreign ministers’ meeting on Saturday and agreed to boost security cooperation in the Asia-Pacific as they both warily watch neighboring China’s rising influence.

Japan and Russia have never signed a treaty to mark the end of World War Two because of a territorial dispute but they are moving to deepen ties despite that, and despite Russian concern about Japan’s role in a U.S. missile defense program.

The foreign ministers of both countries said the meeting helped build trust.

“To boost cooperation in the field of security, and not just in the field of economic and people exchanges, means that we are improving overall Japan-Russia ties,” Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told a news conference.

“This would also have a positive impact on the negotiations to sign a peace treaty.”

Japan and Russia both claim remote, windswept islets called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kuriles in Russia.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who have met four times in the last six months, agreed in April to revive talks on resolving the dispute and a vice ministerial-level meeting will be held next year.

On Saturday, the two sides agreed to hold naval exercises to combat terrorism and piracy and to deepen their cooperation in regional security and diplomatic forums.

Russia invited the Japanese ministers to Moscow in 2014 for more talks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

Neither side referred explicitly to worries about China’s rising power and Kishida said security cooperation between Japan and Russia was not being undertaken with any other country in mind.

The path to a good relations between Japan and Russia may not be entirely smooth.

Russia expressed concern over Japan’s moves to strengthen its defense alliance with the United States including a plan to locate a U.S. missile-defense radar system in Japan.

“We openly communicated that we are concerned about Japan’s participation in the United States’ global missile defense system,” Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said.

Relations between Russia and the United States have been strained by disputes over Iran, Syria, and Russia’s decision to give temporary asylum to U.S. fugitive spy contractor Edward Snowden.

China Begins First Trial Of Anti-graft Activists

Three Chinese anti-graft activists who agitated for officials to disclose their assets went on trial on Monday in the first case of its kind, underscoring the limits of government tolerance of challenges to its authority.

Despite an official drive against corruption, China has detained at least 15 activists in recent months who were involved in a campaign pushing for officials to disclose their wealth.

Rights groups describe the detentions as the first major crackdown against activists by the new government. The trial of Liu Ping, Li Sihua and Wei Zhongping is the first prosecution of anti-graft activists.

The three were detained in late April in Xinyu, in the poor, landlocked southern province of Jiangxi, and accused of illegal assembly. They face a maximum of five years in prison if convicted.

Officials in Xinyu could not be reached for comment.

Zhang Xuezhong, one of two lawyers defending Liu, said police had tried to prevent the legal defense teams from entering the court in the morning, though the court intervened and they were eventually allowed in.

“All three are pleading not guilty,” Zhang told Reuters by telephone from outside the court, adding he was not optimistic about the case given its sensitivity.

The three are involved in the New Citizens Movement, which advocates working within the system to press for change. Its founder, the prominent activist Xu Zhiyong, was arrested in August.

Wang Cheng, a lawyer friend of the three who is not directly involved in the case, said he believed the government was trying to send a message that it would not tolerate the activities of rights groups.

“They’re using this case to warn others, to bring these activities under control,” Wang said. “It shows how nervous they are.”

“CANARIES IN THE COAL MINE”

The ascendancy of Xi Jinping as Communist Party chief in a once-in-a-decade leadership transition last November had given many Chinese hope for political reform, spurring citizens to push officials to disclose their wealth in several movements throughout the country.

But the charges against the activists are a strong indication that the Communist Party will not tolerate any open challenge to its rule under Xi, even as it claims more transparency.

Xi, who became president in March, has called for a crackdown on graft, warning, as many have before him, that the problem is so severe it could threaten the party’s survival.

Encouraged by Xi’s calls for more transparency, the activists took photographs of themselves holding banners and placards that said: “Strongly urge officials to disclose their assets” and “Xi Jinping, immediately end dictatorship”.

The pictures were widely circulated online.

“Liu, Wei, and Li are canaries in the coal mine for how the government intends to treat this influential group of anti-corruption activists,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch.

“Anything short of acquittal will seriously undermine the credibility of the government’s claims to be cracking down on corruption.”

There have been a few pilot schemes for low-level officials in China’s southern Guangdong province to disclose their assets, but the efforts have made little progress and discussion of the wealth of senior leaders such as Xi remains firmly off limits.

China’s Third-quarter GDP Growth Fastest This Year

China’s economy grew at its quickest pace this year between July and September, underpinned by investment, although analysts question if the vigor would continue in coming months.

The world’s second-largest economy grew 7.8 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier, in line with expectations, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed on Friday.

So far this year, investment has accounted for more than half of the expansion, showing the challenges faced by Beijing in trying to restructure the economy towards consumption, which policymakers expect to provide more sustainable growth in the years ahead.

After slipping in eight of the last 10 quarters, analysts said growth may fall once again in the current October-to-December period. Exports are expected to soften and authorities may also rein-in credit expansion after inflation pushed to a seven-month high.

“The growth peak was behind us in the third quarter,” said Ting Lu, an economist at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch. “We believe the People’s Bank of China will slightly shift its monetary policy from a moderate expansion in the third quarter to a neutral stance.”

After three decades of double-digit expansion fuelled by exports and investment, Beijing is trying to shift or “restructure” the economic mix so that activity is geared much more to consumption.

That means the economy has slowed down compared with previous years, although sluggish global demand has provided an added weight dragging on China’s growth.

For the first nine months, the economy grew 7.7 percent, keeping it on track to achieve the government’s growth target of 7.5 percent this year, far outperforming other major economies but still the worst performance for China in 23 years.

The fragility of China’s latest economic revival comes as no surprise. Exports suffered a surprise fall in September after demand from emerging nations crumbled on volatile financial markets, a trend the government said this week is expected to last.

And with the yuan hitting a record high on Friday for the fifth consecutive day, powered in part by strong capital inflows, Chinese exporters may face a tougher time yet as the rising currency erodes their competitiveness.

“The economy is facing a complex and uncertain domestic and international environment,” Sheng Laiyun, a spokesman for the National Bureau of Statistics told a briefing.

“In addition, we have accumulated chronic structural imbalance problems in our economy and need to deepen reforms to address them.”

REBALANCING?

The latest data shows China is still a long way from having consumption as the mainstay driver of growth.

For the first nine months, consumption accounted for 46 percent of growth, much less than the 56 percent taken up by investment. Exports, on the other hand, subtracted 1.7 percent.

Investment in the property sector, where prices are at record highs despite measures to calm the market, appeared to be especially buoyant.

“We think the recovery in the third quarter was mainly driven by the strong momentum of the property market,” said Shen Jianguang, chief China economist with Mizuho Securities in Hong Kong.

Underscoring strong growth in the real estate industry, the sector accounted for 15.8 percent of the economic activity in the first nine months, up from 14.8 percent in the first half of the year.

Overall investment rose in the first nine months of 2013 by 20.2 percent compared with a year earlier. Analysts had expected a rise of 20.3 percent.

Other figures released on Friday suggested the economy was slowing down at the end of the third quarter.

Factory output in September rose 10.2 percent from a year earlier, slightly above expectations of 10.1 percent but weaker than August’s annual pace of 10.4 percent.

Retail sales rose 13.3 percent from a year earlier, slightly below expectations for an increase of 13.5 percent and slowing down from 13.4 percent in August.

CONTROL LOAN GROWTH

Most economists believe Chinese authorities will keep interest rates unchanged in the next year-and-a-half to underpin the economy.

Yet in a complication for policy, inflation hit a seven-month high in September of 3.1 percent at a time when the central bank has voiced concerns about a brisk expansion in credit.

This has led some economists to predict China may tweak its policies in coming months to put a brake on credit growth.

Lu from Bank of America-Merrill Lynch said the government could take steps to crimp rapid credit growth and avoid expanding its “mini stimulus”, which has so far included accelerating infrastructure investment.

“The new government under Premier Li Keqiang will prevent further quickening of credit growth,” Lu said.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected the world’s second-largest economy to grow 7.8 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier, picking up from 7.5 percent in the second quarter and compared with 7.7 percent in the first.

The latest expansion was the strongest since 7.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012.

($1=6.0982 yuan)

Prosecutor Demands Severe Punishment As Bo Trial Ends In China

Chinese prosecutors demanded a heavy sentence for ousted top politician Bo Xilai as his divisive, dramatic trial ended on Monday, saying his “whimsical” challenge to charges of bribery, graft and abuse of power flew in the face of the evidence.

Bo was a rising star in China’s leadership circles when his career was stopped short last year by a murder scandal in which his wife, Gu Kailai, was convicted of poisoning a British businessman, Neil Heywood, who had been a family friend.

Bo, who was Communist Party chief of the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing, has mounted an unexpectedly feisty defense since the trial began on Thursday, denouncing testimony against him by his wife as the ravings of a mad woman.

The court, announcing the end of the five-day trial, said the verdict would come at a later date. It did not provide details, but it could be announced within the next few weeks.

Bo has repeatedly said he is not guilty of any of the charges, although he has admitted to making some bad decisions and to shaming his country by his handling of former Chongqing police chief, Wang Lijun, who first told Bo that Gu had probably murdered Heywood.

Wang fled to the U.S. consulate in the nearby city of Chengdu in February last year after confronting Bo with evidence that Gu was involved in the murder. Wang was also jailed last year for covering up the crime.

Summing up the evidence, the state’s prosecutor said Bo should not be shown leniency as he had recanted admissions of guilt provided ahead of the trial.

“Over the past few days of the trial, the accused Bo Xilai has not only flatly denied a vast amount of conclusive evidence and facts of his crimes, he has also repudiated his pre-trial written testimony and materials,” the court cited the prosecutor as saying.

“We take this opportunity to remind Bo Xilai: the facts of the crimes are objective, and can’t be shifted around on your whim,” it said, without saying which of the four prosecutors had made the remarks.

SALACIOUS ALLEGATIONS

The trial has heard many salacious allegations against Bo, with transcripts, although probably edited, being carried on the court’s official microblog.

The prosecution has alleged that Bo took more than 20 million yuan ($3.27 million) in bribes from two businessmen, embezzled another 5 million yuan from a government building project, and abused his power in trying to cover up Gu’s crime.

Details have been presented of a villa on the French Riviera bought for the Bo family by businessman Xu Ming, who also paid for foreign trips by Bo and Gu’s only son, Bo Guagua, offering a glimpse into the lifestyles of China’s elite politicians.

Bo said that he had initially admitted to Communist Party anti-corruption investigators that he received bribes as he had been “under psychological pressure”.

Bo also said he been framed by one of the men accused of bribing him, businessman Tang Xiaolin, who he called a “mad dog”.

The prosecutor said Bo’s lack of contrition would count against him.

“The severeness of the accused’s crimes, and that he refused to admit guilt, don’t match the circumstances of leniency, and (he) must be severely punished in accordance with the law.”

Bo said he had offered his confession about accepting bribes from Tang because he wanted to “cooperate, to get the understanding” of the party, which at the time was leading the investigation into him.

“At the time, I had a spark of hope, I hoped to keep my party membership, to keep my political life,” Bo said, according to the court’s transcript.

There was no mention in the transcript of Bo’s previous assertion of being put under pressure to confess.

Bo also provided a new explanation for why Wang – who has accused Bo of punching him upon the news of Gu’s involvement in Heywood’s murder – fled to the U.S. consulate.

“He was secretly in love with Gu Kailai,” Bo said, adding that Gu had rejected the former police chief. “He muscled in on my home, on my feelings, which is the real reason for his defection.”

Despite Bo’s gutsy defense, a guilty verdict is a foregone conclusion as China’s courts are controlled by the Communist Party. State media, which speaks for the party, has already all but condemned him.

Bo could theoretically be given the death penalty for the charges, although many observers say that is unlikely as the party will not want to make a martyr of a man whose left-leaning social welfare policies won much popular support.

($1 = 6.1210 Chinese yuan)

Illegal Rooftop Temple Prompts Unholy Ire In Chinese City

An elaborate temple-like structure perched on an apartment block in southeastern China is an illegal hazard that should be torn down, residents say. But they may not be as lucky as opponents of a lavish rooftop villa in Beijing.

The temple in Shenzhen is believed to have been on the roof for about seven years but the complaints have hit the spotlight only after a doctor in Beijing was given 15 days to demolish his 800-square-metre (8,600-square-foot) house and garden built illegally atop a 26-storey apartment block.

Although the roof of the building in Shenzhen is supposed to be a public space, a fingerprint-activated lock stops others from accessing it, according to media reports.

Chen Jiatao, chairman of the complex’s housing management committee, said the temple’s owner must resolve the matter by opening the space to other residents but he seemed to hold out little hope.

“I once spoke with the past chairman, who was here for seven years,” Chen told Reuters Television. “He said this to me: ‘Oh my, don’t you know? This person is an official, he has friends in high places.’ So it’s useless.”

A disregard for laws and regulations by the rich and well-connected is a source of discontent among many Chinese.

The temple and inaccessible rooftop have raised concerns about safety. For residents on higher floors, the roof would be the main escape route in case of fire, while the added weight from the illegal structure could threaten the building’s stability, media reports say.

Apartments in the building sell for around 30,000 yuan ($4,900) per square meter and the rooftop itself is worth more than 15 million yuan ($2.45 million), according to the South China Morning Post.

Illegal rooftop temple prompts unholy ire in Chinese city

China’s Bo Appears In Public, Denies A Bribery Charge

Fallen Chinese politician Bo Xilai denied one of the bribery charges against him on Thursday as he appeared in public for the first time in more than a year to face China’s most political trial in over three decades.

Bo, the 64-year-old former Communist Party chief of the southwestern city of Chongqing, has been charged with bribery, corruption and abuse of power and will almost certainly be found guilty. But his denial of one of the charges could mean that he will not go quietly.

President Xi Jinping, who wants to rebalance the world’s second-biggest economy, will be keen to put the trial behind him with a minimum of fuss to ensure stability and party unity. Bo’s downfall has pitted supporters of his Maoist-themed egalitarian social programs against the capitalist-leaning economic road taken by the leadership, exposing divisions within the ruling party as well as Chinese society.

His trial in the eastern city of Jinan marks the culmination of China’s biggest political scandal since the 1976 downfall of the Gang of Four at the end of the Cultural Revolution.

Appearing somber, a clean-shaven Bo, whose hair looked like it was still dyed black, stood in the dock without handcuffs, according to a picture issued by the court. He was dressed in a long-sleeved white shirt and stood with his hands crossed in front of him, flanked by two policemen.

“Regarding the matter of Tang Xiaolin giving me money three times, I once admitted it against my will during the Central Discipline Inspection Commission’s investigation against me,” Bo said, referring to the party’s top anti-graft body.

“(I’m) willing to bear the legal responsibilities, but at that time I did not know the circumstances of these matters, my mind was a blank.”

State television said Bo did not contest the evidence shown in court.

Bo was charged with receiving about 21.8 million yuan ($3.56 million) in bribes from Xu Ming, a plastics-to-property entrepreneur who is a close friend, and Tang Xiaolin, the general manager of Hong Kong-based export company Dalian International Development Ltd, the court said.

He received the bribes through his wife, Gu Kailai, and his son, Bo Guagua, it said, citing the indictment.

It was the first time that authorities had named the younger Bo in the case against his father. Guagua is now in the United States, pursuing a law degree at Columbia University.

Bo’s language suggests that he could fight the charges against him, and the court account did not say whether he had or would plead guilty to any of the charges.

A guilty plea would almost certainly signal he has worked out a deal for leniency, but he is likely to plead not guilty to the abuse of power charge to show that he is a victim of a power struggle, according to a source with ties to the leadership.

Court spokesman Liu Yanjie told reporters that Bo was “emotionally stable and physically healthy” during the trial.

“The court session proceeded in an orderly fashion,” he said.

TWO-DAY TRIAL

Bo’s trial will last for two days and the verdict is likely to be in early September, state broadcaster CCTV said.

The Jinan Intermediate Court said on its microblog feed that five of Bo’s family members and 19 journalists attended the hearing. In another picture published by the court, Bo’s siblings appeared to be in court. The court said over 100 people filled the courtroom.

Underscoring popular support for Bo, a handful of supporters protested outside the courthouse for a second day to denounce what they said was politically motivated persecution. Police, who had blocked off the courthouse, hustled them away.

One protester’s sign read: “The Chongqing experience is good for the country and the people, common prosperity is what the people want”. Another held up a photo of Mao Zedong.

Bo also embezzled 5 million yuan from a government project in the northeastern city of Dalian, where he served as mayor, the court said.

The charge of abuse of power against Bo relates to the murder case involving Gu, the court said. Bo was a rising star in China’s leadership circles when his career was stopped short last year by the murder scandal involving Gu, who was convicted of the November 2011 murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, a business partner and family friend.

Bo’s former police chief in Chongqing, Wang Lijun, has also been jailed for trying to cover up the case. Bo was furious with Wang when he was told that his wife was a murder suspect, and sacked him despite not having party authority to do so, sources with knowledge of the case have said.

Neither did he report the matter to his bosses in Beijing, all of which led to the abuse of power charge, they said.

“Bo violated regulations to block the investigation of the murder in which Bogu Kailai was a suspect,” said court spokesman Liu, using Gu’s official but rarely used name.

Nevertheless he has been seen by his backers as the victim of a power struggle. Bo’s downfall has triggered heated debate between his leftist followers, who are nostalgic for the revolutionary ideals of the Mao Zedong era, and reformers, who advocate faster political and economic change.

Bo could face a death sentence for his charges, though a suspended death sentence is more likely, which effectively means life imprisonment, or a 20-year term.

The trial will be watched as a test case of China’s commitment to the rule of law, especially whether Bo will be given a chance to defend himself.

Yet his guilt is an almost foregone conclusion given that prosecutors and courts come under Communist Party control. Courts have a 98 percent conviction rate.

The new administration of President Xi, who formally took the reins of state power in March, will likely trumpet Bo’s case as a success in its fight against deep-rooted corruption.

($1 = 6.1234 Chinese yuan)

China Quake Death Toll More Than Doubles To 54, Hundreds Hurt

The death toll from a 6.6 magnitude earthquake in China’s western Gansu province on Monday more than doubled to 54 people, the municipal government said, with hundreds injured as many homes in affected areas collapsed.

The quake hit Minxian and Zhangxian counties, about 170 km (105 miles) southeast of the provincial capital of Lanzhou, at 7.45 on Monday morning (7.45 p.m. ET Sunday), the official Xinhua news agency said.

It put the number of people seriously injured at 296. Earlier reports by the official Xinhua news agency said 22 people had died.

Eight towns in the remote, mountainous area sustained serious damage in the quake and subsequent flooding and mudslides, state media said.

There were also power outages, while cell phone and Internet coverage was disrupted, residents and state media reported. The Red Cross Society of China said it had sent relief supplies to the affected areas, including jackets and tents.

“Many have been injured by collapsed houses,” said a Minxian county doctor surnamed Du. “Many villagers have gone to local hospitals along the roads.”

Photos posted on Chinese social media showed roads on the sides of riverbanks that had subsided and farmhouses reduced to piles of red bricks.

About 380 buildings had collapsed and 5,600 sustained damaged in Zhangxian county, the Dingxi municipal government said in a microblog post.

A school building in Minxian county was also damaged, a teacher in the area said, although he said he didn’t believe any students were injured because they were away on summer holidays.

Heavy rain is also forecast for the areas hit by the quake, which officials fear would compound the damage by causing more landslides and flooding.

A second 5.6 earthquake struck the same region about 90 minutes after the first, Xinhua said, the most significant of several aftershocks. The United States Geological Survey said the first quake had a magnitude of 5.9.

Gansu abuts Sichuan province, where a 6.6 quake in April killed 164 people and injured more than 6,700, China’s worst quake in three years.

That quake hit close to where a devastating 7.9 temblor killed some 70,000 people in May 2008.

Among those killed in the 2008 quake were thousands of children, raising suspicions that the schools that had collapsed on them had been poorly constructed, in part due to corruption.