News / Asia

Analysts Say Verdict in Gu Kailai Case a Foregone Conclusion

Sarah WilliamsVictor Beattie
The murder trial for Gu Kailai, wife of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai, is reportedly set to begin Thursday in the Chinese city of Heifei.  Gu is charged in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, who was found dead in a Chongqing hotel last November.

Andrew Nathan, professor of political science at Columbia University and a China expert, says Chinese officials have indicated how the trial will unfold and that the outcome has been decided.

“Certainly in what they call ‘serious and complicated’ cases this is no secret that such cases are not decided by the hearing judge alone, but they’re decided by a committee inside the court in advance,” he said.  “It’s not a trial in a western sense.”

“They have already said that she confessed to the crime of murder, that it was involving some economic disagreement, and that she said she did it to protect her son," said Nathan. 

Nathan believes those are the kind of legally relevant points which suggest that she might get a sentence of life imprisonment or a death sentence with a two year reprieve.

The trial is closed to the public and foreign media, but two British officials have been given permission to observe the proceedings. Gu’s aide Zhang Xiaojun is also charged with Heywood’s murder.

Heywood met Bo and Gu during the 1990’s while Bo served as mayor of Dalian.  He helped the couple’s son, Bo Guagua, gain admittance to his own alma mater Harrow School and then to Oxford University. Gu lived in Britain for about two years while her son was in school there, and it is thought Heywood offered Gu financial advice. 

Heywood’s death was initially blamed on excessive alcohol consumption, and his body was quickly cremated. But in February, Wang Lijun, an aide to Bo Xilai, fled to the U. S. consulate in Chengdu and asked for protection. 

“You have a situation in which the public doesn’t know anything but the Chinese authorities know that the American authorities know something, so the Chinese authorities at that point really have no choice but to consider this information public, because at any time the Americans could have spread it,” said Nathan. 

“I’m sure the Americans told the British authorities what they knew about the fate of a British citizen, so in other words, it wasn’t public, but it was no longer secret either, so the Chinese hand was forced, they had to deal with it,” said Nathan.

The trial follows the ouster of Gu’s husband, Bo Xilai, from his powerful post as Communist Party chief of Chongqing.  It is not yet known whether Bo’s political fate has been determined by party leaders.

The son of a famous revolutionary leader, Bo had been considered a top contender for the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s top decision-making body.  But his charisma and leftist policies such as evoking nostalgia for the Cultural Revolution angered some party officials.  Bo was stripped of his post and placed under investigation following Wang’s flight to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu.

The scandal also impacted the party’s leadership transition.  Ken Dewoskin, director of Deloitte’s China Research and Insight Center in Beijing, said the Bo Xilai purge illustrates the factionalism within the Communist Party.

“It takes a lot of political wrangling to topple a top leader like that,” said Dewoskin. “Obviously he would have very strong support in the top echelons, a very large patronage network, a lot of people who trusted him, their resistance to purging him had to be overcome.” 

Andrew Nathan believes the Gu case is an offshoot of the larger Bo Xilai scandal. “The bigger power struggle was Bo’s enemies trying to find something on him, and they did, and so he is no longer a candidate for promotion to the Politburo Standing Committee,“ he said.

The current meeting of senior party leaders at the Beidaihe resort also fanned speculation as to the direction of the party and the timing of the party congress, usually held in the fall. “Now the story is with this Beidaihe retreat that there is a consensus, that things are under control, that there is not a major fracture that the public has to worry about, that things will proceed normally,” said Dewoskin.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs