By Sui-Lee Wee
BEIJING (Reuters) - A lawyer appointed to represent disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai in his corruption case said on Thursday he has been denied permission to act on his behalf, a move likely to reinforce belief that Bo's conviction is a foregone conclusion.
Gu Yushu, a lawyer appointed by Bo's sister, Bo Jieying, told Reuters he would not be allowed to represent Bo during his trial, which is likely to open this month, as authorities attempt to close the door on China's biggest political scandal in decades.
"We did not receive approval, so it's over with the client," Gu said by telephone.
When asked for the reason why, he said: "It's not convenient to talk about this."
Prosecutors charged Bo with bribery, abuse of power and corruption in late July, capping the country's biggest political scandal since the 1976 downfall of the Gang of Four at the end of the Cultural Revolution.
His wife, Gu Kailai, and his former police chief, Wang Lijun, have both been convicted and jailed over the scandal, which stems from the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood in the southwestern city of Chongqing, where Bo was Communist Party chief until his sacking early last year.
Bo will be represented by two lawyers, Li Guifang and Wang Zhaofeng. Li had told Reuters that he was appointed by Bo. But the state-owned Global Times newspaper later reported that Li had been "assigned" by the government-run Beijing Legal Aid Center. Li could not be reached for comment.
Gu declined to say whether Bo would plead guilty, when the trial would start or whether he had seen Bo, saying he could not provide any details "given the sensitivity of the matter".
The news of Bo being denied his sister's choice of legal representation comes as Chinese police have detained a leftist supporter of Bo who had urged people to protest against the upcoming trial, underlining government nervousness about the case.
Analysts say Bo's trial will be a test case for the prospects of legal reform in China. But Bo is certain to be found guilty as China's prosecutors and courts come under Communist Party control and they are unlikely to challenge the Party's accusations against Bo.
"For such kinds of cases, who will act as lawyers are all arranged by the higher ups," said He Weifang, a law professor from Peking University who has followed the Bo case. "Whoever acts as the lawyer will not affect the outcome of the trial."
Two lawyers previously hired by Bo's family, Li Xiaolin and Shen Zhigeng, told Reuters last year they had not been given permission to either see Bo or represent him.
Bo has not been seen in public for about 17 months and has not been able to respond to the accusations against him. At a news conference days before his dismissal, Bo scorned as nonsense unspecified accusations of misdeeds by his wife and said people were pouring "filth on my family".
Gu Kailai and Zhang Xiaojun, an aide to the Bo family, were both denied their choice of lawyers at their trials last year and had to accept government-appointed lawyers. Zhang was also jailed.
(Additional reporting by Lucy Hornby and Beijing Newsroom)