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Most Sensational Trial In Recent Memory Ends After Just One Day?

ralphrepo

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I don't know if any of you are following the criminal trial of Gu Kailai (wife of Bo Xilai, who at one point had been predicted to become the next leader of the PRC), accused of murdering a British citizen. But, just as soon as the trial begins, it ends with the defendant offering no contest to the charges. Obviously, there is probably a lot of things that will never be revealed. But this trial was expected to potentially air a lot of party dirty laundry; the fact that it didn't even get the chance to see the light of day, IMHO, means that they likely made her an offer that she couldn't refuse; in other words, she falls on her sword like a good little party member or else.

The only thing that I can think of that would make anyone acquiesce so easily is to threaten harm to their children. My suspicion is the party promised not to go after her son (who was last seen outside the PRC) if she would toe the line. Of course, the former Mr. Big, Bo XiLai, hasn't been seen or heard from since the party moved against him and his wife.

Anyone have any other plausible theory?

August 9, 2012
Trial of Chinese Ex-Official’s Wife Begins and Ends
By ANDREW JACOBS

HEFEI, China — The murder trial of Gu Kailai, the wife of the deposed political leader Bo Xilai, began here on Thursday morning and came to an end seven hours later, with officials saying that the defendant and an accomplice had all but confessed to poisoning a British businessman who had threatened the safety of Ms. Gu’s son. In a statement read to foreign journalists, the deputy director of the Hefei Intermediate People’s Court placed most of the blame on Ms. Gu, 53, saying she gave the Briton, Neil Heywood, a fatal dose of poison as they sat in a hotel room in Chongqing, the metropolis in southwest China that was run by her husband until his downfall last spring. “The criminal facts are clear; the evidence is solid,” the court official, Tang Yigan, said. A verdict will be announced at a later time.

According to the statement, the killing took place on the evening of Nov. 13 after Ms. Gu and Mr. Heywood spent time drinking together at a rented villa on the outskirts of the city. After consuming some tea and alcohol, Mr. Heywood began to vomit and asked for a glass of water, at which point Ms. Gu “poured poison into his mouth,” the court said. The statement said the poison was prepared in advance and given to the family employee, Zhang Xiaojun, 33, who had accompanied Mr. Heywood to Chongqing from his home in Beijing. The court provided no further detail of Mr. Zhang’s role, nor did it specify who prepared the poison.

Mr. Tang also said Mr. Heywood deserved some responsibility for the murder because he had threatened the safety of Ms. Gu’s son, Bo Guagua, a recent graduate of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. He did not elaborate on the nature of the threat. Analysts believe the mitigating circumstances presented by the court — that Ms. Gu feared for the safety of her son — lessened the likelihood that Ms. Gu would face the death penalty. Mr. Tang, the court official, also portrayed Ms. Gu as emotionally frail. He quoted her lawyers as saying Ms. Gu’s “ability to control her own behavior was weaker than a normal person.” The lawyers, he added, said they hoped for leniency given that she had assisted the authorities by revealing details about other people’s crimes. The court’s statement raised a host of questions: it did not explain the “economic interests” that had prompted the dispute between Ms. Gu and Mr. Heywood, 41, an enigmatic figure and longtime friend. It also avoided any mention of her husband, who reportedly knew about his wife’s crime and sought to cover it up.

One Chinese journalist who spoke to people who attended the trial said Mr. Bo’s name came up only once, in a reference to Mr. Zhang as a family employee. The trial’s brevity suggests that Chinese leaders are eager to bring to a close an embarrassing scandal, one that strained Chinese-British relations and complicated an upcoming leadership transition scheduled for the fall. The British Embassy had no immediate comment on the trial. The choice of the venue — in China’s eastern Anhui Province, hundreds of miles from the scene of the crime — highlighted the extent to which Communist Party leaders were seeking to minimize anything surprising, however unlikely, that might arise during the painstakingly orchestrated trial. Legal analysts say distance was not the only factor in choosing the provincial capital of Anhui: the president of the Supreme People’s Court, Wang Shengjun, has deep ties to the province, all but guaranteeing a compliant court. President Hu Jintao also comes from Anhui, as does Vice Premier Li Keqiang, the man presumed to be the future premier. “This trial is the outcome of a political struggle,” said Pu Zhiqiang, a prominent defense lawyer, referring to powerful enemies of Mr. Bo, a brash up-and-coming politician who alienated many party luminaries. “Any trial to which the central party pays this much attention had no chance of being fair.”

Until Thursday, coverage of the scandal, the most sensational in recent memory, had received little attention in the Chinese media. Domestic news outlets have been ordered to use dispatches from Xinhua, the state news agency, and public discussion on the Internet has been blocked. Reporters from news outlets other than Xinhua and the state broadcaster, CCTV, were barred from traveling to Hefei. On Thursday, a newspaper in Shenzhen splashed a photograph of Mr. Heywood on its front page, in what appeared to be a sly attempt to circumvent the restrictions. Inside, the paper ran the spare Xinhua announcement. On Thursday evening, CCTV reported on the trial with footage from inside the courtroom. The three-minute segment showed Ms. Gu, smiling and wearing a black sport jacket over a white dress shirt, as she was led into the chambers. Her face appeared bloated, and a family member expressed shock, saying her appearance had changed dramatically since they had last met. Mr. Zhang was dressed in a white golf shirt. Neither defendant was in handcuffs. The camera lingered on two British consular officials in the courtroom. Mr. Tang, the court official, made a point of describing Ms. Gu as “healthy and emotionally stable” during the trial. The CCTV newscaster read the same statement that had been given to foreign journalists earlier, although it did add one significant new detail: that four police officials in Chongqing had been charged with harboring Ms. Gu. The officers will be tried on Friday in the same court.

The trial comes at a sensitive time for the Communist Party, which is going through the final steps of a once-in-a-decade waltz that will elevate a new raft of leaders. Although the killing of a foreign national by the wife of a high-profile politician has proved embarrassing to Beijing, Chinese leaders have been more challenged by the events that unfolded in the months that followed the death. In February, a trusted ally of Mr. Bo who was reportedly fearing for his life sought refuge in the American Consulate in Chengdu, where he was said to have revealed details of the killing — and perhaps other information that the party would rather not share with the Americans. Senior leaders moved relatively quickly, ousting Mr. Bo from his posts in April, and shortly afterward, Xinhua announced the arrest of Ms. Gu and Mr. Zhang, the family employee. The evidence, Xinhua said last month, was “irrefutable and substantial.” Although Xinhua has broadly described the crime as born from “a conflict of economic interests,” most analysts predicted that the details of those interests would not be discussed during the trial, given their potential to complicate the case against Mr. Bo, who is still awaiting his fate.

Cheng Li, an expert on Chinese politics at the Brookings Institution, said party leaders might also be leery of publicly airing details about financial dealings that could involve tens of millions of dollars, according to those with knowledge of the investigation. Although few Chinese have illusions about the integrity of their leaders, party officials do not necessarily want such dirty laundry to be aired so prominently, especially about Mr. Bo, who still enjoys strong support among certain factions of the leadership and among ordinary Chinese. “They are eager to keep the focus on murder, which is so much easier to deal with than corruption,” Mr. Li said. It is not clear whether any family members attended the trial on Thursday. Bo Guagua, the couple’s only child, remained in the United States. Mr. Bo declined to discuss the case, but in a statement on Wednesday he confirmed that he had submitted witness testimony on behalf of his mother. “As I was cited as a motivating factor for the crimes accused of my mother, I have already submitted my witness statement,” he said. “I hope that my mother will have the opportunity to review them.” It is likely that neither his mother nor her lawyers had a chance to review such documents in advance. According to one person close to the family, as of Wednesday afternoon the lawyers had not seen the prosecution’s case file. Still, in the scheme of things, such judicial niceties were likely irrelevant. The defense lawyers initially chosen by the family were barred from seeing Ms. Gu; a few weeks ago, a pair of government-appointed lawyers from Anhui were chosen instead. “Forcing court-appointed lawyers on a defendant is illegal but it’s an old trick,” said Teng Biao, a lawyer who frequently presses for legal reform in China. “Court-appointed lawyers are more interested in helping the prosecutors move the trial along than with protecting a defendant’s rights.”

Li Xiaolin, the lawyer who was hired by Mr. Zhang’s family but was denied access to his client, was nonetheless allowed to attend the trial with the defendant’s wife. He said that the state-appointed lawyers mounted a more vigorous defense than he had expected but that there were glaring holes in the prosecution’s case, most notably the nature of the poison. “I found the evidence presented in court was incomplete,” he said in an interview afterward. “Lots of pieces were missing.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Correction: August 9, 2012 An earlier version of this article misspelled Wang Shengjun’s given name as Shenjun, and an earlier version of this correction referred incorrectly to Shengjun as a surname.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/10/w...concludes.html?ref=global-home&pagewanted=all
 
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