News / Asia

Indicted Chinese Co-Defendants Face Tightly Controlled Legal System

A combination photograph shows British businessman Neil Heywood (L) at an Aston Martin dealership in Beijing, May 26, 2010, and Gu Kailai, wife of fallen Chinese politician Bo Xilai, at a mourning service held for her father-in-law in Beijing, China, Janu
A combination photograph shows British businessman Neil Heywood (L) at an Aston Martin dealership in Beijing, May 26, 2010, and Gu Kailai, wife of fallen Chinese politician Bo Xilai, at a mourning service held for her father-in-law in Beijing, China, Janu
TEXT SIZE - +
The indictment on murder charges of Gu Kailai, wife of Bo Xilai, and Zhang Xiaojun, a family employee, has set China's unique legal system in motion.

Chinese prosecutors have accused Gu and Zhang Thursday of poisoning British businessman Neil Heywood, once a close associate of Bo Xilai's family, who was found dead in a Chinese hotel last November. 

The indictment specifically charges the co-defendants with "intentional homicide." 

What comes next in the case is pretty easy to predict, according to Chinese attorney Jim Li, who studied law at Beijing University and in the United States. We contacted him at his firm in New York, Jim Li & Associates.

Jim Li: "Gu and [her] associate will face the death penalty, according to the Chinese penalty law. In China, acts...might be divided into two [categories]: one is intentionally, one is not - unintentionally.  Intentional murderer will face the death penalty."

VOA: What happens now? She is in police custody, and we can assume her co-defendant is as well. Where does the legal system go?

Jim Li: "The next step, they are going to appear before a judge.  They’re going to have an attorney, a lawyer to defend them. That should be done within a month."

VOA: Will they face a court with a jury of their peers?

Jim Lee: "In Chinese system, there [is a] forum with normally three judges.  So there’s no such jury like in the [United] States. And, also, there’s no arraignment hearing. No such hearing in China.  [She] was indicted, the next hearing will normally be individual merits hearing."

VOA:  Is it your experience that the lawyers who represent the defendants have a fair opportunity to defend their clients?  

Jim Li: "No. They have no fair opportunity to have their own lawyer to defend them freely.  [The] lawyers under the Chinese system, particularly related to political issues, will be controlled by the authorities. The lawyers cannot freely defend them."

VOA:  So by definition the lawyers who are assigned to the two co-defendants are biased? They’re chosen by the government?

Jim Li: "No. They have the freedom to choose their own lawyers. The family...could find a lawyer for their relatives freely. But the lawyers are not free. The lawyer who would be hired will be controlled by the Chinese authorities. For example, they could not defend 'not guilty.' "

VOA:  But can the co-defendants plead not guilty?

Jim Li: "The lawyer cannot say 'not guilty' before the judge for some important cases, not every case, not by law. Under the Chinese political and legal situations,  lawyers are controlled by the authorities. They are not free to defend a 'not guilty' plea."

VOA:  In what way are they controlled?

Jim Lee:  "They are threatened. Some lawyers are chased out of the court."

VOA: This proceeding that is going to take place, is it something that is going to be televised for the Chinese public?

Jim Li: "No. Definitely not.  It is impossible. The media in China also are now afraid to report this case.  All the news released about this case will be…issued by Xinhua agency. No other media could freely report this case."

VOA: You’re painting a picture where there’s really not much maneuvering room for the defendants.

Jim Li: "There is only one thing [where] there is room for the defendants: whether or not they are going to face the death penalty, because I read the indictment charges and they [contend the defendants] murdered Mr. Heywood because Gu felt that...her son was facing some danger [from] Mr. Heywood. This is an indication that Gu has one reason for not [facing] death penalty."

VOA: Does her motivation itself give Gu the opportunity to avoid the death penalty?

Jim Li:  "That’s right. Because the indictment provided a motivation. That’s very odd to me.  It’s not so usual for the motivation for such important a case. Most likely, they are going to give a leeway to Gu for no death penalty.  There’s another penalty of punishment for the death penalty, it says probation of the death penalty for two years... Before the [end of] probation the court will change the sentence to a life sentence."

VOA: Is there any process in the Chinese legal system that allows them to appeal?

Jim Li: "Yes, definitely. Under the procedure criminal procedure law, they have the right to appeal,  but you know that most important cases all procedures are controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.  So the appeal will fail."

VOA's Catherine Maddux contributed to this story from Washington.

You May Like

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid