Could Bo Xilai Escape Criminal Charges?

The South China Morning Post reported Tuesday that Gu Kailai had confessed to both the murder of Neil Heywood and “economic crimes” during her detention, according to a source with direct knowledge of the case, though she will only face the murder charge when her trial begins Thursday. The piece claims that the lack of additional charges against Gu, such as bribery, would suggest that husband Bo Xilai may avoid criminal prosecution:

“If Gu were not charged with economic crimes, Bo won’t face too huge a problem,” said Beijing-based lawyer Pu Zhiqiang . “The high-ups want to see an uncomplicated and quick ending.”

The source, who was part of the prosecution team and spoke on the condition on anonymity, described the suspect as “gracious” and “relaxed” during questioning.

“Gu told investigators everything she could remember and, as for those accusations about which she couldn’t remember clearly, she asked the investigators to go ahead and write up anything they’d like to.”

The source also said that the only physical evidence prosecutors obtained in their investigation was a piece of Heywood’s heart removed by former police Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun before his body was hastily cremated in November without an autopsy.

Thursday will mark “the most anticipated trial in China since the Gang of Four took the stand in 1981,” according to Kathrin Hille and Sally Gainsbury of The Financial Times, who write that Bo’s fate remains the big storyline amid an all-but-certain guilty verdict for Gu:

“The key question in this case is whether the verdict will mention Bo Xilai and make this case openly political,” said Yu Hui, a lawyer familiar with Chongqing. “There have been such fierce internal party struggles about this.”

In one way, the Bo saga brings the party back in time. In 1981, the Gang of Four – Mao Zedong’s wife Jiang Qing and three other party members – were found guilty of persecuting hundreds of thousands during the Cultural Revolution.

As was the case after the death of Mao, the Chinese leadership has an interest in limiting the damage to the party from the case of Mr Bo who partly built his quest for power on a renaissance of Cultural Revolution-era Maoist policies.

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