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.

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.
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. 

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

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Comment Sorting
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 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

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

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