The murder trial of Gu Kailai, wife of ousted Chinese politician, Bo Xilai, as well as that of Zhang Xiaojun a family aide, is set to begin on Thursday, 9 August 2012, in Hefei. Ms. Gu and Mr. Zhang are on trial for the alleged murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, who was found dead in his hotel room in Chongqing on 15 November 2011.
Initially, local authorities reported that Mr. Heywood died of excessive drinking or a heart attack; however, Ms. Gu, together with the help of Mr. Zhang, has been accused of poisoning Mr. Heywood. According to Xinhua, the state-run news agency, “the facts of the two defendants’ crime are clear, and the evidence is irrefutable and substantial. Therefore the two defendants should be charged with intentional homicide”. It is believed that Mr. Heywood was poisoned after a “conflict of economic interests”, and after Ms. Gu’s son was threatened by Mr. Heywood.
The trial is set to last for one or two days, and according to legal experts, Ms. Gu will most likely be found guilty and could face the death penalty. However according to lawyers and legal experts, she is more likely to receive a suspended death sentence. She might serve a life prison sentence instead. This is due to her history of depression and because she was trying to defend her son.
Ms. Gu’s murder trial has been a particularly sensitive issue for China, especially after Mr. Bo was ousted from his post as party chief of Chongqing in March and put under investigation for unspecified disciplinary violations and for breaking Communist Party rules. Mr. Bo has not been specified as a suspect in the murder of Mr. Heywood; however he stands to face trial at a later date due to party violations.
In a reflection of the sensitivity of the case, although Xinhua’s report that Ms. Gu will stand trial for the murder of Mr. Heywood was the top online topic, and the third most reposted story on China’s most popular microblogging site, Sina Weibo, web users were barred from discussing or commenting on the story. Users who wanted to comment about the story on Weibo were blocked from doing so, and instead received messages saying that they were unable to do so due to “relevant laws and policies”. Searches for Ms. Gu’s name were also blocked.
Report: Bo Xilai’s Wife to Stand Trial (The Wall Street Journal, 3 August 2012)
Report: Heywood murder: China sets Bo Xilai wife trial date (BBC News, 4 August 2012)
Report: Bo’s wife charged with murder (TODAYonline, 27 July 2012)
Report: China blocks online talk of Gu case (Channel NewsAsia, 27 July 2012)