Gu Kailai, wife of the purged Bo Xilai, is expected to go on trial on Thursday for the murder of British businessman and family fixer Neil Heywood. Bo was the former party secretary (effectively the mayor) of Chongqing, where Heywood was found poisoned in a hotel room last November.The scandal has shaken the Communist Party to its core, but the trial should be over in a matter of days. Citing Chinese sources, the Daily Telegraph reports that Gu has been cooperative:
“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,” they said.
A lawyer as well as the daughter of a famous Chinese revolutionary general, Gu has spent her life in the world of elite Chinese politics. She knows how the system works. And make no mistake: Despite the legal façade, this is a political matter.Party leaders had been meeting for weeks to discuss Bo’s fate. To punish the popular Bo severely would require the airing of all his dirty laundry, and many Chinese citizens would wonder how such a corrupt and venal figure could rise so high within the Party. But to let him off easy could leave the door open for Bo to re-emerge in a few years.With Gu’s trial set, and with the announcement that she will be charged with “intentional homicide” but not with additional “economic crimes”, it seems a compromise has finally been reached:
Analysts believe this is a clear sign that leaders in Beijing have decided to spare Mr Bo serious punishment in order to avoid exposing the messy financial dealings of such a powerful and well-connected family.On the eve of the 18th Communist Party congress, part of the crucial leadership transition scheduled for this autumn, China’s top leaders are thought to be unwilling to open a Pandora’s box of allegations about the private wealth and supposedly extravagant lives of the country’s elite.“Frankly, they don’t want to do it post-18th Congress either,” said Rana Mitter, a professor in Chinese history and politics at Oxford University.
The Party will now move on from the Bo saga, but a fundamental weakness of the system remains. The post-Mao “leadership by committee” was designed to stop the emergence of a singular, charismatic political figure capable of wielding unchallenged power. It was designed, in effect, to stop Bo Xilai. Yet it was only by a fluke that Bo was brought down before he reached the pinnacle of Chinese power and became untouchable.