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

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

US Urges Taliban to Stay With Afghan Peace Talks

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

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.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs