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 Getting to Zero AIDS Infections

More than 35 million people around the world are infected with HIV, a disease that is both preventable and treatable

Children, Childhoods Lost in European Refugee Crisis

According to UNICEF, 190,000 children applied for political asylum in Europe in the first 9 months of this year - twice as many as last year

What Happened When I Landed in Antarctica

Refael Klein chronicles what it's like to visit one of the coldest, most desolate places on Earth

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.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs