For one thing, the government is ignoring, not navigating, legal requirements when it denies Bo his choice of lawyer without any apparent legal basis. But even more glaring is this: The entire procedure on which the case against Bo has been built is lawless.
Both the Chinese constitution and the Chinese Law on Legislation prohibit the physical restriction of personal freedom without a proper legal basis. And for years, Party leaders and documents have stressed the need to obey the Constitution and the law. In 2007, the 17th Party Congress work report stated that "each party organization and all party members must self-consciously operate within the boundaries of the constitution and the law, and must take the lead in upholding the authority of the constitution and the law". Similar language appeared five years later in the 18th Party Congress work report. And in December 2012, Xi Jinping stated in a speech that "we must firmly establish, throughout society, the authority of the Constitution and the law."
Yet over part of the period in which these elevated sentiments were being voiced, Bo Xilai was being held for months in a form of Party-based investigative detention called shuanggui ("double designation"). In shuanggui, Party officials and others are forcibly detained for what can be months -- sometimes in hotels or guesthouses, sometimes in special facilities -- by Party disciplinary officials, not state officers, and subject to interrogation under conditions so stressful that some detainees have attempted suicide. Even its defenders admit it has no basis in law; when you get right down to it, it's a criminal offense of unlawful detention. There is even a kind of backhanded official recognition of its lawlessness: When a shuanggui'd official's mistress put together a team to bust him out of the hotel room where he was being held, she was charged with disturbing public order, not aiding a prisoner to escape. And when you are sentenced to prison, you get credit for time served in lawful pre-sentence custody, but not for time served in shuanggui.
Bo disappeared into this system on March 15, 2012. There he remained, in a realm completely ungoverned even by the elastic and prosecution-friendly provisions of the Chinese Criminal Procedure Law, until at least the end of September. On September 28, the Party's Politburo, one of China's top political bodies, announced that Bo Xilai would be ejected from the Party and his case "transferred" to judicial organs (police, prosecutors, and courts) for handling "according to law."
This announcement is the key to understanding the Party's view of law: whether it is to be navigated or ignored. September 28, 2012 represents (approximately) the date from which the political leadership of China decided that statutory legal procedures should be followed. The corollary, of course, is that it represents the date prior to which the political leadership paid no attention to legal requirements. Up until that time, the handling of the Bo case, including his illegal forcible detention, was deemed an internal Party matter and nobody else's business. The very concept of "transferring" a case to judicial organs implies that a case can be located elsewhere than in the judicial organs and outside of their jurisdiction until an external decision maker -- here, the Party -- decides to pass it on to them. And that decision is not itself constrained or governed by law; it is purely political. Indeed, the fact that the Party could change the law to legalize shuanggui but has never done so suggests a defiant declaration of its intent never to subject itself to legal constraints.