Suspended death sentence given to Gu Kailai, wife of Bo Xilai

 

McClatchy Newspapers

A Chinese court on Monday handed down a suspended death sentence for Gu Kailai, the wife of fallen Chinese politician Bo Xilai.

The widely expected outcome for Gu, who was found guilty earlier this month of killing a British businessman, will most likely mean a long prison term -- an outcome that both helps to calm one of the biggest political controversies to hit China in decades and avoid possible outcry over an execution. It's customary in Chinese law for such death sentences designated with two-year reprieves to be converted to incarceration after that period.

The official Xinhua newswire said in a report later in the day that while her “criminal offense was odious” the court took into consideration Gu’s mental condition – she’d previously been said to have been treated for depression, anxiety and paranoia in the past – as well as her cooperation after arrest. It noted that she will not be filing an appeal.

The verdict leaves open the far thornier question of how the Chinese Communist Party will handle Bo’s case. He was not mentioned during Gu’s seven-hour court deliberation on Aug. 9, and the only public pronouncement about his fate so far was an April state news item saying that Bo had been “involved in serious discipline violations.”

Until the beginning of this year, Bo was widely considered a strong candidate for the nation’s Politburo Standing Committee, the apogee of power in China. The son of a Communist Party elder and the boss of the sprawling city of Chongqing, Bo’s political fortunes went into freefall after his former police chief fled to a U.S. consulate in February. That recently demoted police official, Wang Lijun, reportedly aired allegations that Gu had killed British businessman Neil Heywood in a Chongqing hotel room last November.

The case against Gu was seen as closely choreographed by the Communist Party. The timing of the proceedings, and the controversy surrounding Bo, is particularly sensitive given a change in the majority of standing committee seats slated for later this year in a once in a decade transition of power.

On Monday, the court also sentenced four Chongqing police officials to between five and 11 years for helping cover up the crime, which was reported at the time as being related to alcohol. But it remained unclear whether the state intends to build a case demonstrating a chain of command reaching up to Bo.

Wang Lijun, the former police chief, is expected to stand trial soon, though the charges against him have not been announced.

Prosecutors in the eastern province of Anhui said that 53-year-old Gu murdered Heywood after a feud over a land project, for which Heywood was to act as a proxy for Gu. When the deal went bad, the prosecution said, Heywood, 41, demanded a large payout; arguing with Gu and threatening her son via e-mail. The court cited Gu’s concerns about a perceived danger to her son, Bo Guagua, as a motive.

Nonetheless, Heywood then accepted Gu’s invitation to travel from Beijing to Chongqing last November and drank heavily with her in a room at the city’s Lucky Holiday Hotel as a family orderly, Zhang Xiaojun, waited outside, according to testimony filed by prosecutors. After Heywood became drunk and fell in the bathroom, Zhang is alleged to have brought in a bottle of a cyanide compound that Gu then poured into Heywood’s mouth.

Left unexplained was why Heywood would have traveled to Chongqing, a city that Gu’s husband then ruled with near-absolute power as Communist Party secretary, after threatening Gu and her son. Having done business in China for years, Heywood would likely have known that doing so would be a dangerous proposition.

Zhang, the orderly, received a nine-year sentence on Monday. He also will not be appealing, Xinhua reported.

After the trial earlier this month, the state Xinhua newswire quoted Gu as having confessed to the crime and telling the court that, “The case has produced great losses to the Party and the country, for which I ought to shoulder the responsibility, and I will never feel at ease. I am grateful to the humanitarian care shown to me by those who handled the case. I solemnly tell the court that in order to maintain the dignity of the law, I will accept and calmly face any sentence and I also expect a fair and just court decision.”

Wang Lijun, the former police chief who fled to the U.S. consulate in February, is expected to stand trial soon, though the charges against him have not been announced.

Email: tlasseter@mcclatchydc.com Twitter: @tomlasseter

Read more World Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
Trader Glenn Kessler works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Monday, July 28, 2014. The stock market is opening mixed at the start of a busy week as a batch of merger announcements lift shares in Family Dollar and other companies.

    Asia stocks up, Europe subdued before US data

    Asian stocks extended gains Tuesday ahead of U.S. and Chinese economic reports later this week while European markets were subdued amid the possibility of new sanctions against Russia. The South Korean stock market closed at a three-year high.

  • Passengers stuck in Hawaii for 3 nights get cash

    A group of Air New Zealand passengers has been stranded for three nights after being repeatedly told their plane was delayed due to mechanical problems.

  •  
In this Thursday, July 17, 2014 photo, Polly Akhurst, right, and David Blackwell, co-founders of Talk To Me London, speak during an interview with the Associated Press, in London.  It’s a typical urban routine: Sit on the subway, headphones in, fiddling with the smartphone to avoid eye contact with fellow passengers. Now a new campaign called Talk To Me wants to change London’s image as one of the loneliest places in Britain. Volunteers are handing out special badges with the message “Talk to me, I’ll talk to you” - an invitation to strike up a conversation with the wearer, anywhere.

    Lonely Londoners looking to open up to strangers

    It's a typical urban routine: Sit on the subway, headphones in, fiddling with the smartphone to avoid eye contact with fellow passengers.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category