Trial of Chinese Ex-Official’s Wife Begins and Ends

The murder trial of Gu Kailai, the wife of the deposed political leader Bo Xilai, began here on Thursday morning and came to an end 7 hours later, with officials saying the defendant and an accomplice had all but confessed to poisoning a British businessman who had threatened the safety of Ms. Gu’s son. In a statement read to foreign journalists, deputy director of Hefei Intermediate People’s Court placed most of the blame on Ms. Gu, 53, saying she gave Briton, Neil Heywood, a fatal dose of poison as they sat in a hotel room in Chongqing, the metropolis in southwest China that was run by her husband until his downfall last spring. “The criminal facts are clear; the evidence is solid,” the court official, Tang Yigan, said. A verdict will be announced at a later time. According to statement, the killing took place on evening of Nov. 13 after Ms. Gu and Mr. Heywood spent time drinking together at a rented villa on outskirts of the city. After consuming some tea and alcohol, Mr. Heywood began to vomit and asked for a glass of water, at which point Ms. Gu “poured poison into his mouth,” the court said. The statement said the poison was prepared in advance and given to family employee, Zhang Xiaojun, 33, who had accompanied Mr. Heywood to Chongqing from his home in Beijing. The court provided no further detail of Mr. Zhang’s role, nor did it specify who prepared the poison. Mr. Tang also said Mr. Heywood deserved some responsibility for the murder because he had threatened safety of Ms. Gu’s son, Bo Guagua, a recent graduate of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. He did not elaborate on the nature of the threat. Analysts believe the mitigating circumstances presented by the court, Ms. Gu feared for the safety of her son, lessened the likelihood that Ms. Gu would face the death penalty. Mr. Tang, court official, also portrayed Ms. Gu as emotionally frail. He quoted her lawyers as saying Gu’s “ability to control her own behavior was weaker than a normal person.” The lawyers said they hoped for leniency given that she had assisted authorities by revealing details about other people’s crimes. Court’s statement raised a host of questions: it did not explain the “economic interests” that had prompted the dispute between Ms. Gu and Mr. Heywood, 41, an enigmatic figure and longtime friend. It also avoided any mention of her husband, who reportedly knew about his wife’s crime, sought to cover it up. One Chinese journalist who spoke to people who attended trial said Bo’s name came up only once, in a reference to Mr. Zhang as a family employee. Trial’s brevity suggests Chinese leaders are eager to bring a closed an embarrassing scandal, one that strained Chinese-British relations, complicated upcoming leadership transition scheduled for the fall (…..)



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5 Responses to Trial of Chinese Ex-Official’s Wife Begins and Ends

  1. (NYT GOLD PICK) Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Not only in economics China delivers. The political system is also HIGHLY efficient in keeping its (powerful) members in line. This swift delivery of justice serves as a deterrence for other members of the Communist Party apparatus. Besides, it sends a strong message to the population in times of prosperity but growing social unrest and inequality. In China, the rich and political powerful are not immune to the justice system. If the same rule were applied in Brazil, for example, the country would be more prosperous and less social unequal. As Getulio Vargas — a former President in the 50s — used to say: Para os amigos, tudo. Para os inimigos, a lei (to my friends, everything. To my enemies, the law ?). Vargas’ maxim is still applied in the Western Hemisphere, no doubt.

  2. wmtg: “In China, the rich and political powerful are not immune to the justice system.”; Mr. Nogueira, don’t let one little show trial fool you. The rich and the powerful get free passes all the time. Note that the trail lasted on 7 hours and everything had been decided in the back room. Gu Kailai is going to jail because the powers are out to get her husband.

  3. Chandrashekhar Patel: The rich and the powerful are immune to Justice System in PRC….but only to an extent. Once they slip from the pedestel (!) the downfall is swift and often brutal.

  4. AC: The only reason anyone outside of the CCP bigwigs knows about this, and subsequently forced a trial, is because Wang Lijun ran off to the American embassy in Chengdu and spilled the beans in fear of his career and/or life. Had that little embarrassment never happened, Mrs. Gu would be “free” (we are talking about China, folks), and Mr. Heywood would be just another Brit who drank himself to death. So a rich and powerful person is tried and convicted, yes, but only because you’re looking.

  5. During a holiday banquet for China’s military leadership early this year, a powerful general lashed out in a drunken rage against what he believed was a backhanded move to keep him from being promoted to the military’s top ruling body. The general, Zhang Qinsheng, vented his fury in front of President Hu Jintao, according to four people with knowledge of the event. At the banquet, he even shoved a commanding general making toasts; Mr. Hu walked out in disgust. The general’s tirade was one of a series of events this year that have fueled concerns among Communist Party leaders over the level of control they exercise over military officials, who are growing more outspoken and desire greater influence over policy and politics. With China’s once-a-decade leadership transition only months away, the party is pushing back with a highly visible campaign against disloyalty and corruption, even requiring all officers to report financial assets. “Party authorities have come to realize that the military is encroaching on political affairs,” said one political scientist with high-level party ties. “Although the party controls the gun, the expression of viewpoints from within the military on political issues has aroused a high level of alarm.” He, like others who agreed to discuss internal party affairs, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of fear of reprisals. Some generals and admirals have loudly called for the government to assert control over the South China Sea, the focus of increasingly rancorous territorial disputes between several Southeast Asian countries and China, where nationalist spirits are on the rise among the public and politicians as well. And earlier this year, leaders in Beijing became alarmed over ties between generals and the disgraced Politburo member Bo Xilai. The party’s need to maintain stable rule over an increasingly vocal military is one reason Mr. Hu, its top civilian leader, is expected to hold on to his position as chairman of the Central Military Commission for up to two years after he gives up his party chief title in the fall, according to people briefed on political discussions. His anointed successor, Xi Jinping, would still take over Mr. Hu’s posts as head of the party and head of state, but would have to wait to become China’s military boss. Mr. Hu’s two predecessors both exercised control of the military after they gave up their other civilian titles. But some party insiders have argued that a staggered handover can lead to rival centers of power, splitting generals’ loyalties. No final decision has been made on whether Mr. Hu will stay on. But if he does, then Mr. Xi could find himself with limited room to expand his power base, even though he has more of a military background than Mr. Hu (…..)


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