News / Asia

Disgraced Chinese Politician's Wife Expected in Court on Murder Charges

In this July 30, 2012 photo, books on Gu Kailai, wife of ousted Chinese politician Bo Xilai, are displayed at a book shop in Hong Kong.
In this July 30, 2012 photo, books on Gu Kailai, wife of ousted Chinese politician Bo Xilai, are displayed at a book shop in Hong Kong.
VOA News
Gu Kailai, wife of ousted senior politician Bo Xilai, will face charges of intentional homicide in a court hearing expected to open Thursday in Hefei, the capital of China’s Anhui province.  Zhang Xiaojun, the butler of the once powerful family, is also charged in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood who was found dead in his hotel room last November.

While the case has huge political repercussions within the Chinese leadership, most Chinese newspapers did not carry the news of the scheduled hearing on Wednesday.  Instead, front pages were reserved for news of Tuesday's Olympic performances.

On its front page, the Beijing Evening News printed a picture of Liu Xiang limping off the track, with an aching expression on his face.  The headline read “Olympic joy, tears and sadness.”  There was no mention in the newspaper of Thursday’s trial.

Such omissions are not uncommon. 

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
Since the scandal started in Chongqing with former police chief Wang Lijun’s request of protection at the U.S. consulate in the nearby city of Chengdu, the Chinese government has sanctioned independent reports on the case and required news outlets to only use brief Xinhua announcements.

The Internet, which has become one of the most vibrant platforms to discuss current events in China, is similarly censored.  Searches for the defendants’ names and other details of the case are blocked on microblogs.

Lawyer Li Xiaolin, famous for defending high profile cases of corruption in China, was asked to represent butler Zhang Xiaojun at the trial.  After contacting Hefei’s High Court, where the case will be heard, Li’s application was rejected.  Li says he will still be in court tomorrow.

“I hope that there will be a fair trial, that is it,” he said adding that so far the case had been handled according to the law.

Sensitive political trials in China are usually held behind closed doors, but a British embassy official said the courts accepted a formal request to have two officials listen to the hearing.

Neil Heywood’s death was first reported to be caused by excessive drinking, and his body was quickly cremated after he died.

Timeline of the Bo Xilai Scandal

  • Feb. 2:    Bo's key ally and Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun is demoted
  • Feb. 6:    Wang visits U.S. consulate in Chengdu, reportedly to seek asylum
  • Mar. 2:    Xinhua says Wang is under investigation
  • Mar. 9:    Bo defends himself and his wife, Gu Kailai, at a press conference at the National People's Congress
  • Mar.15:   Bo dismissed as Chongqing party chief
  • Mar. 26:  Britain asks China to investigate November death of Briton Neil Heywood in Chongqing
  • Apr. 10:  Bo suspended from Communist Party posts.  China says his wife is being investigated for Heywood's death
  • Apr. 17:  New York Times reports U.S. officials held Wang so he could be handed to Beijing authorities instead of local police.
  • Jul. 26:   Bo's wife, Gu kailai, charged with the murder of Briton Neil Heywood
  • August 9: Gu Kailai's trial begins in Hefei.
But after months of speculation and rumors online, the Chinese media reported last April that Gu Kailai and Zhang Xiaojun were responsible for the Briton’s death.
Media reports at the time hinted at economic disputes between Gu and Heywood, her business associate.  But later reports accused Gu of holding a personal grudge against Heywood because he allegedly threatened her son, Bo Guagua.

News reports Wednesday said Bo Guagua, who has been silent since the scandal broke, submitted a witness statement to the courts, most likely in an attempt to help his mother’s case.

If found guilty of intentional homicide, Gu Kailai and Zhang Xiaojun could face the death penalty.

Gu’s husband Bo Xilai is a so-called princeling, a son of a well respected senior government official whose stature within the party might have helped Bo establish his own political path.  Until this scandal he was considered a prime candidate for a seat at the highest echelon of China’s power, the standing committee of the Communist Party politburo.

After his wife was indicted, he was charged with an unspecified “serious breach of regulation.”

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

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Troops Depart

Afghans are grappling with how exodus will affect country's fragile economy More

Video Scientists Say We Need Softer Robots

Today’s robots are mostly hard, rigid machines, with sharp edges and forceful movements, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say they should be softer and therefore safer 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