Mystery African meat piques appetites during China trial

JINAN, China Sat Aug 24, 2013 2:12am EDT

Policemen guard the entrance of the Jinan Intermediate People's Court during the third day of the trial of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai in Jinan, Shandong province August 24, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Policemen guard the entrance of the Jinan Intermediate People's Court during the third day of the trial of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai in Jinan, Shandong province August 24, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

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JINAN, China (Reuters) - Testimony in the trial of fallen Chinese politician Bo Xilai has produced salacious details about the opulent and supposedly corrupt lifestyle of the family of the once high-flying Communist Party aristocrat.

But perhaps no tidbit has attracted as much attention as the piece of exotic meat Bo's son, Guagua, brought back from a visit to Africa in 2011.

The trip was paid for by entrepreneur Xu Ming, once close to the Bo family and now detained, accused of paying bribes to Bo.

The mystery meat was a given by Guagua to his father, according to written testimony at the trial from his wife, Gu Kailai, a transcript of which was published by the court.

Gu said she did not remember what animal it came from, only that it was from a rare species.

The story of the meat is one of a slew of revelations to come out of Bo's trial which began on Thursday. He faces charges of corruption, taking bribes and abuse of power.

The court also heard allegations that Xu hired private jets for Guagua, paid for him to stay in posh hotels and even bought the family a luxury villa in southern France.

The testimony offers a glimpse into the lifestyles of China's elite politicians, and reinforces a campaign by President Xi Jinping against corruption and opulence.

Bo's wife, Gu, was imprisoned last year after being found guilty of the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.

Their son, Guagua, is living in the United States, where he is preparing to start law studies at New York's Columbia University. He has yet to comment on the trial.

In her testimony, Gu told of a dispute between father and son over the meat.

"Guagua said it could be eaten raw, but Bo Xilai said it needed to be cooked. That made Guagua mad, and he said it was very expensive and that preparing it like that would spoil it," Gu said.

In the end, the elder Bo prevailed and they steamed the meat. The taste "wasn't bad", according to Gu. "We ate this meat for a whole month," she added.

Bo told the court he knew nothing of the Africa trip. He did not mention the meat.

Online, users of China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo puzzled over the meat. "What kind of meat can you keep for a month, and where can I get some?" one microblog user asked.

On Taobao, China's most popular online shopping site, a user posted what appeared to be a joke advertisement offering meat "the same as Guagua's, eat it for a month".

"Don't hurt father's feelings by worrying about whether to eat it raw or cooked; eat it any way you like," the advertisement read.

Hong Kong's Phoenix Television carried a guide on its mainland China microblog to what kinds of meat could last a month, including legs of Parma ham. Many people said Bo's meat was probably a cured meat from South Africa known as biltong.

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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