News / Asia

    China Reacts to Gu Kailai Murder Charge

    Combination photograph shows Bo Xilai (L-R) as Chinese Minister of Commerce during a meeting in Beijing June 4, 2005; British businessman Neil Heywood at an Aston Martin dealership in Beijing May 26, 2010; and Gu Kailai, wife of China's former Chongqing M
    Combination photograph shows Bo Xilai (L-R) as Chinese Minister of Commerce during a meeting in Beijing June 4, 2005; British businessman Neil Heywood at an Aston Martin dealership in Beijing May 26, 2010; and Gu Kailai, wife of China's former Chongqing M
    Shannon Sant
    BEIJING – In China, the announcement of murder charges against the wife of one of China’s most prominent politicians left many unanswered questions about a case that remains highly sensitive.

    News of murder charges against Gu Kailai, wife of Bo Xilai covered the front pages of Chinese newspapers Friday. Gu is charged with murdering British businessman, Neil Heywood. While news articles hail the trial as progress in establishing rule of law in China, Internet searches for Gu and her husband’s names remained blocked on Chinese microblogs.
     
    Censorship

    Bo Xilai's wife, Gu Kailai, is at the center of one of the most sensational scandals to rock China's Communist Party.

    • Did not dispute charges she murdered British businessman Neil Heywood
    • Charged with the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood
    • Worked as a successful lawyer before retiring as her husband's career took off
    • Wrote a book about her experience helping Chinese companies win a U.S. legal battle
    • Daughter of a prominent Communist leader
    Commenting was also disabled on Chinese websites that carried news of the charges, and analysts like David Kelly, director of the Beijing-based research firm China Policy, say the trial is not a step forward for rule of law, but rather an attempt to take down a politician who had fallen out of favor with China’s leadership. 
     
    “The trial itself is widely perceived to be politically motivated, to incriminate him by implication," Kelly said.
     
    Bo Xilai was a member of China’s Politburo and a rising political star.  The handsome politician was a so-called "princeling", the son of one of Mao Zedong’s top allies.  He quickly rose through the ranks of the Communist Party leadership as mayor of the northeastern city of Dalian; governor of Liaoning Province and positions in the Ministry of Commerce before taking over as Party Chief of Chongqing in 2007.  
     
    While his bold leadership style drew strong support from some quarters, there were also stories of corruption, including Bo’s alleged attempts to punish his political enemies and buy off Chinese scholars.
     
    Motivation
    Timeline of the Bo Xilai Scandal

    • Feb. 2:    Bo's key ally and Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun is demoted
    • Feb. 6:    Wang visits U.S. consulate in Chengdu, reportedly to seek asylum
    • Mar. 2:    Xinhua says Wang is under investigation
    • Mar. 9:    Bo defends himself and his wife, Gu Kailai, at a press conference at the National People's Congress
    • Mar.15:   Bo dismissed as Chongqing party chief
    • Mar. 26:  Britain asks China to investigate November death of Briton Neil Heywood in Chongqing
    • Apr. 10:  Bo suspended from Communist Party posts.  China says his wife is being investigated for Heywood's death
    • Apr. 17:  New York Times reports U.S. officials held Wang so he could be handed to Beijing authorities instead of local police.
    • Jul. 26:   Bo's wife, Gu kailai, charged with the murder of Briton Neil Heywood
    • August 9: Gu Kailai's trial begins in Hefei.

    Zhang Ming, a Professor at Renming University, says these stories may have also motivated the government to investigate Bo and his wife. 
     
    He says Bo Xilai has possibly violated many many regulations, he acted illegally so it was his existence that created a sense of insecurity to make people [in the leadership] feel uneasy and therefore unsafe. He says the fact that Bo Xilai’s actions will be dealt with makes the leadership feel safe.
     
    Chinese authorities have not implicated Bo Xilai in the murder of Heywood, 41, whose body was found in a Chongqing hotel room last fall.
     
    Details on Heywood and his relationship with the Bo family remain sketchy.  A report in China’s state news agency, Xinhua, quoted unnamed investigators who alleged that Gu poisoned Heywood after a business conflict involving her son.  At the time local police in Chongqing attributed Heywood’s death to alcohol poisoning, and his body was cremated before an autopsy could be performed. 
     
    Trial

    Kelly says that while the case may be meant to show the Chinese public that all people, including top government leaders are equal before the law in China, the trial may prove the opposite.   
     
    “The odds of a guilty finding are close to 100 percent, but the sentence is up for grabs and that’s because there is no rule of law here,”  Kelly said.
     
    He says Chinese legal scholars often refer to what they call "the hidden rules" of the Chinese judicial system. 
     
    “Law is used generally by the government basically as a tool of government," noted Kelly.  "Law is always stacked in the government’s favor and that is why it is called the hidden rules.  The hidden rule is that they will get you.  You can’t fight city hall in the old American saying because city hall has got all the cards and you have none.” 
     
    Chinese leaders will likely want the trial and investigation to be wrapped up before the leadership transition this fall.  
     
    He Baogang, Chair of International Studies at Australia’s Deakin University, says that transition is likely to be unaffected, but what may change is the public’s faith in the Chinese government. 
     
    “If the trial is more open then that may boost people’s confidence, but it is probably more likely that it will increase Chinese public skepticism of the rule of law, skepticism about this kind of judicial process,”  He said.
     
    Bo was removed from the Politburo after the murder investigation began, and some analysts say any charges brought against Bo will be light.  Manwhile Gu Kailai and an aide to the family will be tried for murder in regular criminal court.  Both face the death penalty.

     Reporter Victor Beattie also contributed to this story

    You May Like

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Hoa Minh Truong from: Gu Kailai murder charge
    July 30, 2012 9:25 PM
    China communist party likes a lizard changing skin, but its couldn't hide the lizard organ and the behavior. China communist lizard has changed skin color since a first visit of US president Richard Nixon in 1972, then the second largest communist bloc has used the western market, technology and money to develop, but the regime remained. As the communist strategy applied: Withdraw one step back in the low tide revolution to prepare 3 steps toward when he high tide of revolution coming.
    Whatever a lizard couldn't transform to dragon, likely China communist regime couldn't be capitalist, but the western state and US helped China growth those helped the most communist high ranking member become the Red Capitalist, despite the most population have not changed much the living condition, actually the rural areas, the peasant, a key of proletariat of communist success, they could be better than Mao Ste Tung era, but the communist working class escape their low income by moving to the city for factory job finding.
    China communist just has changed skin, but there is only communist party in government. The communist party couldn't hide the massacre of 65 million after Mao Ste Tung controlled inland since 1949, then the Tienanmen Square proved the crime of communist party. If China is not communist party, why does government ban Falun Gong while the most democratic country respect the free religion? Tibet people has no freedom, even religious worship.
    A case of blind man. Mr. Cheng Quangchen accused China has no change the communist dictatorial regime at all.
    Hoa Minh Truong.
    ( author and communist expert)

    by: frank yosso from: 11235 usa
    July 29, 2012 3:00 PM
    ancient romans killed off enemies by poison too...it was also used in europe in the middle ages...still used today by russia...its clean and effective and can be hard to prove...

    by: Hoa Minh Truong from: British killed by poison
    July 27, 2012 10:54 PM
    Killing by poison is the communist career, so the most potential enemy, including its communist member could be poisoned. In Vietnam war, after Geneva convention 1954, at north the communist regime called" the Democratic Republic of Vietnam" led by Ho Chi Minh who ordered a police chief, Mr Tran Quoc Hoan, who killed Mr Duong Bach Mai, a high ranking cadre by the discrimination policy between North and Southern background. Mr Duong Bach Mai died right at a meeting hall after drank a cup of tea.
    After 1975, Vietcong took over south Vietnam, a Catholic bishop of Hue diocese, Priest Nguyen Kim Dien who was killed by poison while being cured at the government hospital.
    A case of British business man, Mr. Neil Heywood killed by poison that is not special circumstance of the communist way. So people, actually the western state have to be aware when come to any communist country, the killing by poison could happen any where, even communist could send their agent to kill the enemy offshore.
    Hoa Minh Truong
    ( author of two books: The dark journey & Good Evening Vietnam)
    In Response

    by: A CHINESE CITIZEN
    July 30, 2012 11:43 AM
    Please note that the mainland China is not a communist coutry as would be falsly infered from the name of the party that rules it---the CHINA COUMMUNIST PARTY. After 30 years of open up policy, in a sense, we have turn out to be a reginal capitalist center in Asia.
    Accutally ,the CPC is nothing coummnist at all except for its name.
    I would rather label mainland CHINA as a authotarian capitalist country ruled by a authotarian and eliterian party that call it self "conmmunist"

    by: The_Observer from: Australia
    July 27, 2012 6:10 PM
    Years later it will probably be found that Neil Heywood was both helping Bo Xilai's family to siphon money overseas and working as a British MI6 agent. Heywood probably seduced Gu and when the time came to call in the chips the former attempted to blackmail the latter. That's when Gu killed Heywood. Bo Xilai then tried to cover it up by getting the Public Security Bureau chief of Chongqing, Wang, to cover it up. Wang, saw the hot potato for what it was and ran off to the American consulate. Since the CIA wasn't running the operation and not sure of the consequences they turfed Wang out. Wang was then taken to Beijing where he hasn't been heard from since, no doubt because he holds some of the answers
    In Response

    by: Ian from: USA
    July 30, 2012 12:35 AM
    I do smell a complete plot for a Hollywood movie a` la
    "RED CORNER" with Richard Gere & Bai Ling

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora