News / Asia

Controversy Plagues China Trial Even Before It Starts

Hefei City Intermediate People's Court, Aug. 8, 2012, where the murder trial of Gu Kailai, wife of ousted Chinese politician Bo Xilai, will start Thursday.Hefei City Intermediate People's Court, Aug. 8, 2012, where the murder trial of Gu Kailai, wife of ousted Chinese politician Bo Xilai, will start Thursday.
x
Hefei City Intermediate People's Court, Aug. 8, 2012, where the murder trial of Gu Kailai, wife of ousted Chinese politician Bo Xilai, will start Thursday.
Hefei City Intermediate People's Court, Aug. 8, 2012, where the murder trial of Gu Kailai, wife of ousted Chinese politician Bo Xilai, will start Thursday.
Kate WoodsomeLu Yang
A day before China’s biggest political trial in decades is set to open, the lawyer for one of the co-defendants says he hasn’t even met his client.

Li Xiaolin, a prominent Beijing criminal lawyer, says he’s planning to be in the courtroom when Zhang Xiaojun stands trial for conspiring with the wife of a disgraced Communist Party leader to poison British businessman Neil Heywood. But Li says he won’t be able to ask any questions. That job, he says, will be left up to the state-appointed lawyers.

“I know nothing more than you know about the entire case,” he told VOA in an interview Wednesday.

Zhang is accused of poisoning Heywood in Chongqing last November, a crime allegedly committed with Gu Kailai, the wife of the megacity’s former Communist Party boss Bo Xilai.

Li traveled nearly 1,000 kilometers from Beijing to Hefei, in Anhui province, where the trial is taking place, a journey many foreign journalists are making this week to try to cover the hearing. Their access to the story likely will be as limited as Li’s access to his client, however. Li says the only information he has gleaned about the crime is from state-run media.

“I can only make an assessment based on Xinhua News Agency and nothing more,” he said.

Xinhua is the only news agency in China reporting on the story. Its last dispatch reported July 26 that an investigation showed Gu and her son had disputes with Heywood over “economic interests.” Motivated by concerns about her son’s safety, Xinhua said Gu and Zhang, her butler, poisoned Heywood.

Li, Zhang’s lawyer, said even based on that limited report, his client should not be considered a guilty party.

“You can judge from what Xinhua said that Gu had some relationship with him [Heywood] and Zhang didn’t know him [Heywood], so who would you say killed Heywood?” he said.

Xinhua has presented the case as clear cut, reporting that the results of an investigation showed the defendants should be charged with intentional homicide. The news agency also placed unusual emphasis on the defendants’ rights and due process, a move that Madeline Earp of the Committee to Protect Journalists says likely aimed to contain domestic scrutiny of the trial.

“I think this is a sign that they want to keep the coverage very much focused on the criminal angle to prevent it from influencing perceptions of Bo Xilai as a politician and specifically as a privileged communist party leader who very likely was abusing his position,” Earp said.

Bo was a Communist Party darling slated to rise in the ranks during the party congress in November. He was stripped of his posts after his police chief reportedly took refuge in a nearby U.S. consulate, sharing stories of Heywood’s murder and Bo’s alleged cover-up of the crime. Bo likely will face trial before the party’s disciplinary committee.

Bo and Gu’s son, Bo Guagua, told CNN in an email Tuesday that he has submitted a witness statement to his mother’s defense team, since he was cited as a motivating factor in the murder. He said the facts would speak for themselves.

Gu’s family lawyer declined to comment to VOA, and the state-appointed defense teams are refusing to speak with the media.

Li, the butler’s lawyer, said he didn’t know about Bo Guagua’s letter. But he said even if the letter is real, he has no idea whether it can change Zhang’s sentence.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs