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
    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

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.