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Entries in Gu Kailai (5)

Monday
Aug202012

Wife of Ousted Chinese Leader Receives Suspended Death Sentence

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(BEIJING) -- Precisely on time and as expected, the Intermediate People’s Court in Hefei, China, announced on Monday that Gu Kailai, the wife of ousted party chief Bo Xilai, received a suspended death sentence for the alleged murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.

After the verdict was read, Gu had this short statement for the court: “I feel that the verdict is fair.  It fully embodies that our court showed a special respect to the law, to reality and especially to life.”

Officially, she was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve.  In China, after two years the vast majority of these sentences are commuted to life in prison.  Gu could then be eligible for medical parole in seven years, or 2019.

The judgment was swift, coming just 10 days after her equally quick, one-day trial concluded.  Gu was widely expected to avoid the death penalty, analysts said, due to her family’s prominence as well as the picture painted by the prosecution of an unstable, anxious mother who only killed Heywood to protect her Harvard University son.

Her alleged accomplice, aide Zhang Xiaojun, received nine years in prison.  While no further information was available from the court, neither one is expected to appeal the decision.

Heywood was found dead in his hotel room in the southwestern city of Chongqing last November.  The prosecution claimed that Gu lured Heywood to a meeting to resolve a dispute over “economic interests” that somehow involved her son.  At the time he was a graduate student at Harvard University and based in Cambridge, Mass.  He has since completed his studies and is believed to be in the U.S.  

Gu, the prosecution told the court, got Heywood drunk and when he asked for water she poisoned him.  Earlier this year, the Daily Telegraph reported that the poison was cyanide.  The official Chinese report on the cause death was alcohol poisoning, but Heywood’s body was cremated before an official autopsy could be carried out.

It was only in February that a different story emerged after Wang Lijun, the former police chief in Chongqing, fled to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu.  Reportedly fearing for his life because he knew too much, Wang presented U.S. officials with evidence that Gu was involved in Heywood's death.  He eventually received a police escort to Beijing, where he was taken into custody and placed on “vacation style leave” by the government.

In June, Wang stepped down as a party member, forfeiting his immunity.  He is expected to be tried for treason for his decision to enter the U.S. consulate without approval.

The rapid resolution of Gu’s case reflects the party’s determination to resolve the scandal as quickly and quietly as possible.  Observers suggest that Gu has taken the fall in this dramatic tale in order to protect the government from what could turn into significant public protest over massive corruption at the very top of party leadership.

Reports are the economic dispute that came between the family and Heywood involved millions upon millions of dollars.  Neither the family of Heywood nor British officials have confirmed details, but speculation repeatedly returns to Heywood’s role in assisting Bo and his wife in moving their wealth out of China and the cut he may have been demanding as a fee.

Observers say the last thing the leaders of the party want is for corruption charges to be a matter of public discussion.  That could seriously undermine party credibility just as the government prepares for a once-in-a-decade transition of power.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Aug092012

Murder Trial for Wife of Ousted Chinese Leader Ends After One Day

Hemera/Thinkstock(HEFEI, China) -- Gu Kailai, the wife of ousted Chinese politician Bo Xilai, stood trial on Thursday for the murder of a British businessman last November.

According to China’s Xinhua News Agency, the prosecutors claimed that Gu and her son Bo Guagua had conflicts with Neil Heywood -- once an advisor with financial ties to the Chinese political family -- over economic interests.  

Gu reportedly feared for her son’s safety and decided, prosecutors said, to poison Heywood with the help of an aide in a hotel room.

The court-appointed defense team rebutted, saying Gu had weak self control and was in a fragile state of mind.

Following the arguments from both sides, a court official informed reporters that the trial had finished after just one day.  A verdict is expected at a later date, which has yet to be announced.

Kailai's trial is being considered the highest profile court case in China in over three decades and comes at a particularly sensitive time for China as it prepares to undergo a significant change in leadership.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Aug082012

Murder Trial to Begin for Wife of Ousted Chinese Leader

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(HEFEI, China) -- As if the 2012 Olympics in London were not providing enough drama, the murder trial for Gu Kailai, the wife of ousted Chinese politician Bo Xilai, begins Thursday in Hefei.

Kailai was indicted last November in connection with the death of Brit Neil Heywood in the southwestern city of Chongqing last. Heywood was once an advisor with financial ties to the Chinese political family.

Bo Xilai had for years been a powerful, rising member of the Communist party in charge of Chongqing. He fell from grace in spectacular fashion last spring. His own police chief, Wang Lijun, sought refuge at the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, reportedly presenting U.S. officials with incriminating evidence of corruption against both Xilai and Kailai. Lijun feared for his own life because of his direct connection to them both. He is believed to be held by authorities in Beijing, but has not been seen or heard from for months.

The drama comes at a particularly sensitive time for China. Not only is it the most high profile political scandal in a generation, it involves both the U.K. and the U.S. and comes as the Chinese leadership prepares to undergo a once-a-decade change of power.

Kailai is not being tried for corrupt financial practices; a sign the government may have been wary of setting a precedent for exposing the shady practices of top party members in Chinese leadership. She is also considered the most exposed of the three players (including Xilai and Lijun) in this cloak and dagger drama and the only one who could take the fall without directly shaming the party. She has, for example, no power base or close allies (she and her husband are reportedly estranged).

On the murder charge, she will most likely be found guilty (China has a 98 percent conviction rate and often carries the death penalty). The trial is being described as nothing more than show; Kailai -- a lawyer herself -- was told she had to use local lawyers selected by the government and by some accounts is making no effort to refute charges.

But she could receive leniency; it is noteworthy that state-run media has published her mea culpa as protective action taken on behalf of her son, Bo Guagua. He recently received his masters degree from Harvard University, and is believed to still be living in the U.S.  He spoke out on the eve of his mother’s trial. In a written statement to CNN he said, “I have faith the facts will speak for themselves.”

Some here are comparing this trial to that of another party leader’s wife, Mao Zedong’s widow Jiang Qing. She was tried in 1980 in connection with the uprising in Tiananmen Square. Qing and three others, known as the Gang of Four, were tried and convicted for masterminding political upheaval at the time.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr252012

Bo Xilai’s Son Defends Self Against ‘Notorious’ Rumors

Alexander Hassenstein/Thinkstock(CAMBRIDGE, Mass.) -- After weeks of silence and speculation over his whereabouts, Bo Guagua, the only son of ousted Chinese politician Bo Xilai and his murder-suspect wife Gu Kailai, has written to his school newspaper to defend himself against allegations that he lives the life of a privileged rich kid.

Currently a Harvard grad student and expecting to graduate in a few weeks, the younger Bo released a statement late Tuesday evening in the pages of the Harvard Crimson.

“Recently, there has been increasing attention from the press on my private life. As a result of these speculations, I feel responsible to the public to provide an account of the facts,” Bo wrote in the statement. “It is impossible to address all of the rumors and allegations about myself, but I will state the facts regarding some of the most pertinent claims.”

Even before the dramatic fall of Bo Xilai from the upper echelons of the Communist Party, his son’s flamboyant lifestyle was already a subject of public fascination.

Bo Guagua, which literally means “Melon”, has been known to drive a red Ferrari in Beijing and a Porsche while at school in Cambridge, Mass. Photos circulating online, presumably from his social networking accounts, show Bo Guagua at the center of many parties, solidifying his reputation as a bon vivant. His privileged hard-partying ways have even earned him a satirical twitter handle: @notoriousBGG.

In November, the Wall Street Journal reported that Bo Guagua had once driven his Ferrari to U.S. ambassador’s residence in the Beijing to pick up then- U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman’s daughter for dinner.

In apparent response to this oft-told account, Bo wrote: “I have never driven a Ferrari. I have also not been to the U.S. embassy in Beijing since 1998 …nor have I ever been to the U.S. ambassador’s residence in China.”

Having spent his adolescent years matriculating at expensive elite British boarding schools like Papplewick and Harrow, then university at Oxford and currently Harvard grad student, the younger Bo seemed to be living the charmed life of a third-generation Chinese “princeling.” (Bo Xilai is himself a “princeling,” a term reserved for children of original Mao-era revolutionaries.)

That was until Chinese leaders ousted his dad and accused his mom of murdering a British businessman named Neil Heywood, who was said to have been Guagua’s one-time English tutor and mentor.

The way the younger Bo flaunts his high living ways have no doubt irked some within the Chinese leadership, but it has also lead to questions on how Bo Xilai was able to afford the expensive tuition of the elite schools Guagua attended, let alone the parties he throws, with his civil servant salary.

“My tuition and living expenses at Harrow School, University of Oxford and Harvard University were funded exclusively by two sources—scholarships earned independently, and my mother’s generosity from the savings she earned from her years as a successful lawyer and writer,” Bo wrote in his statement.

He, however, did not reveal the source of the scholarships and his schools have declined to comment on them.

Bo Guagua sightings have been exceedingly rare on the Harvard campus since his father lost his Chongqing Party Secretary post on March 15.

The State Department even felt the pressure last week to dispel rumors that he was trying to seek asylum, only saying that he was still enrolled in Harvard.

In his statement, Bo defended his academic record and extra-curricular activities in boarding school and at Oxford, where he was reportedly suspended for a year due to bad grades.

“I am proud to have been the first mainland Chinese student to be elected to the Standing Committee of the Oxford Union,” the younger Bo wrote with no hint of irony that his own father brought down during his own campaign to assume a seat of the Standing Committee of Chinese Communist Party Politburo.

One thing that Bo Guagua did not mention was the status of his parents, who have been not been seen in public in months.

“I am deeply concerned about the events surrounding my family,” he wrote, “but I have no comments to make regarding the ongoing investigation.”

“I understand that at the present, the public interest in my life has not diminished. However, I wholeheartedly request that members of the press kindly refrain from intruding into the lives of my teachers, friends and classmates.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr102012

Wife of Ousted Chinese Leader Bo Xilai Accused of Murdering Brit

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BEIJING) -- All day Tuesday Beijing was abuzz with reports there was going to be a big announcement during the evening newscast regarding ousted Chinese politician Bo Xilai.

But the evening news came and went, and there was no announcement. Later Tuesday night, China's stat-run Xinhua news agency released a brief statement, announcing that Bo Xilai, once a rising star in the Communist Party, was now officially removed from his leadership roles, including his seat in the Politburo. Bo “is suspected of being involved in serious discipline violations,” the report stated.

However, the more shocking bit of news came next. Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, and a Bo family aide are accused of the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, who until recently was a close friend of the Bo family, according to reports. Heywood apparently was instrumental in helping Bo’s son secure a place at an exclusive British boarding school.

Heywood was found dead in a hotel room last November in the western Chinese mega-city of Chongqing, where Bo was the Communist Party boss until he was removed from the post last month.

Heywood’s body reportedly was quickly cremated before a full autopsy could be completed.  The cause of death at the time was deemed alcohol poisoning. The facts didn’t add up, though -- Heywood had a reputation for not drinking alcohol.

Late last month, Britain asked China to investigate the circumstances of Heywood’s death.

Xinhua’s statement Tuesday said: “According to reinvestigation results, the existing evidence indicated that Heywood died of homicide, of which Gu Kailai and Zhang Xiaojun, an orderly at Bo’s home, are highly suspected.”

The report also claimed that Gu and Heywood “had conflict over economic interests, which had been intensified.”

Xinhua said that the investigation into the Bo family began when Bo’s former right-hand man, Police Chief Wang Lijun, suddenly took refuge at the U.S. consulate in neighboring city of Chengdu back in February, and apparently offered up information regarding Heywood’s death.  Wang is currently also under investigation and has not been seen or heard from since he left the U.S. consulate and was reportedly escorted to Beijing by Chinese officials.

The “Wang Lijun Incident,” as it has come to be known, proved to be the beginning of the end of Bo’s political career, evolving into the biggest scandal in Chinese politics in years.

Coincidentally, the incident has occurred during an extremely sensitive time for China. The country is going through a once-in-a-decade leadership transition. and political factions within the Communist government are jockeying for power beneath a veneer of party unity.

The 62-year-old Bo, a charismatic media-savvy populist, was a controversial figure among his peers for his unabashed politicking. Up until last month, when he was removed from his Chongqing post, Bo was believed to be poised for a top leadership position.

The Xinhua statement gave no specifics on what “serious discipline violations” Bo is accused of, but one thing seems certain: his career is over. And in all likelihood, this very public purging of him and his family members has only just begun.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio