News / Asia

Gu Kailai Ruling Leaves Unanswered Questions

Gu Kailai (C), wife of ousted Chinese Communist Party Politburo member Bo Xilai, stands at the defendant's dock during a trial in the court room at Hefei Intermediate People's Court in this still image taken from video, August 20, 2012.
Gu Kailai (C), wife of ousted Chinese Communist Party Politburo member Bo Xilai, stands at the defendant's dock during a trial in the court room at Hefei Intermediate People's Court in this still image taken from video, August 20, 2012.
William Ide
BEIJING — One of China's most closely watched criminal trials swung quickly to a close this week in what has been portrayed as a straightforward case. Gu Kailai confessed to killing British businessman Neil Heywood and for that she was handed a swift suspended death sentence.

But, for some observers, many questions remain - particularly about the individual the case has all but ignored Gu's husband and fallen Chinese political star Bo Xilai.

In the Chinese media, Gu Kailai goes by the name of Bo Gukailai, with her husband’s surname placed in front of hers.

However, aside from that brief mention of him, Bo’s name has hardly come up in connection with Gu’s trial.

Unanswered questions

Mo Shaoping, a rights lawyer in Beijing, says one of several questions the case left unanswered is how much Bo Xilai knew about the murder and when?

Mo says the question of when Bo found out has legal and criminal implications.  Mo says, if Bo knew about his wife’s plans before hand, he could have been considered an accomplice in the murder. If it was after the fact, he could have been charged with covering the murder up.

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
The rights lawyer says another glaring question that was quickly glossed over during the trial, was Gu’s claim that Neil Heywood was threatening her son, Bo Guagua, over a business deal gone bad.

Mo says that if the two had some kind of business dispute that was so bad that it led Heywood to threaten the life of Bo Guagua, what was the dispute all about?  He says these and other questions were left unanswered by the court.

Insulation

Some political analysts have concluded that the ruling shows that China’s Communist party leaders are looking to insulate themselves and Bo from any further damage. Some argue the ruling shows that little more will happen to Bo.

Others say a government investigation into Bo continues and his wife’s trial is but another step in that process.

Gauging what may come next is hard in a country where the government continues to hold even simple details, such as the dates for upcoming leadership meetings, as tightly guarded secrets.

Trial coverage in Chinese media this week has been muted at best, with many relying entirely on a report from the state-run Xinhua News Agency.

However, there is more commentary online on websites and social media sites.
In some postings on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo site, Gu Kailai’s name is starting to be used to describe anyone believed to have gotten away with murder.

'Political game of chess'

One user argued that Gu was just a pawn in some bigger political game of chess, while another called the ruling a “farce” that was “made up to deceive the public.”

Pu Zhiqiang, a Beijing-based lawyer says it is hard not to see the ruling as rigged and that the trial skipped over the lingering issue of corruption.

Pu says that, with all of the accusations, rumors and concerns that have been raised about Gu and her business practices in the past, is it possible that she is guilty of just one crime?

Mo says it is also curious that Gu, with her extensive legal experience and massive political power, did not just choose to stage a traffic accident to have Neil Heywood killed.

Mo says, regardless of how angry Gu was and how much hatred she had for Heywood, it is hard to comprehend why she personally carried out the murder and did it in a five-star hotel.

For some in China, the court’s sentencing is perhaps the most puzzling aspect of the case. In a country with a notoriously tough criminal justice system, Gu’s suspended death sentence could see her free on medical parole in as few as nine years. That sentence is far more lenient that what most face for premeditated murder.


  • In this photo released by the Jinan Intermediate People's Court, Bo Xilai is handcuffed and held by police officers as he stands at the court in Jinan, in eastern China's Shandong province, Sept. 22, 2013.
  • A minivan believed to be carrying Bo Xilai arrives at the Jinan Intermediate People's Court ahead of the fifth day of Bo's trial, August 26, 2013. 
  • In this image taken from video, Bo Xilai addresses a court at Jinan Intermediate People's Court in eastern China's Shandong province, Aug. 24, 2013.
  • A woman protests outside the Jinan Intermediate People's Court, eastern China's Shandong province, August 21, 2013.
  • Gu Kailai, wife of Bo Xilai, is seen in a still image taken from an August 10, 2013 video provided by the Jinan Intermediate People's Court.
  • Policemen are seen at a court building where the trial for Bo Xilai was held in Jinan, Shandong province.
  • Former police chief Wang Lijun speaks during a court hearing in Chengdu, China, in this still image taken from CCTV video, Sept. 18, 2012.
  • This video image taken from CCTV shows Gu Kailai, wife of Bo Xilai, being taken into the Intermediate People's Court in the eastern Chinese city Hefei, August 9, 2012.
  • Police officers stand guard at the Hefei City Intermediate People's Court for the murder trial of Gu Kailai, Anhui Province, China, August 9, 2012.
  • A  combonation photo showing Neil Heywood and Gu Kailai.
  • Bo Xilai, walks past Communist Party leaders at the National People's Congress in Beijing, March 9, 2012.
  • Bo Xilai, right and his son, Bo Guagua, 2007.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
August 23, 2012 9:36 PM
Was the Gu Kailai trial fair? Why was she spared the death sentence? What can businessmen and investors learn from it? Join the debate this Tuesday 28, 6PM, New York City, and make yourself heard. http://bit.ly/PWzuEx.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs