BEIJING — An extraordinarily lengthy report by state media on the trial of the wife of a disgraced top Chinese politician clarifies that she will be convicted and punished, but leaves questions over the fate of her husband.
The official Xinhua News Agency — in a 3,400-word report that was its most detailed accounting of the scandal that has shaken the country’s leadership — said Friday that Gu Kailai and her co-defendant “confessed to intentional murder” in the death of her business associate Neil Heywood last November.
It said evidence showed she used cyanide to poison him in a Chongqing hotel room but also describes her as depressed and fearful that Heywood would harm her family — factors that may bring leniency in her sentence.
Gu’s arrest and the ouster of her husband Bo Xilai, the Communist Party boss of Chongqing until March, sparked the biggest political turbulence in China since the putdown of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. Her tightly orchestrated trial was a step toward resolving the scandal before the party’s once-a-decade leadership transition this fall. The lengthy Xinhua report did not mention Bo even once, apparently indicating that the party wants to distance him from Heywood’s murder. It is still not known what charges he could face.
Bo is in the hands of the party’s internal discipline and inspection commission, which is expected to issue a statement about his infractions.
That would open the way for a court trial with charges possibly including obstructing police work and abuse of power. Thus far, Bo has been accused only of grievous but unspecified rules violations.
The court in Hefei in eastern China’s Anhui province that heard his wife’s seven-hour trial on Thursday said a verdict against Gu and the family aide accused as an accomplice would be delivered later. Their trial was followed Friday by the trial of four senior Chongqing police officers accused of helping Gu cover up the crime.
Xinhua said Gu accepted all the facts in the indictment and was ready to accept her punishment, saying: “The tragedy which was created by me was not only extended to Neil, but also to several families.”
Gu said Heywood wrote a letter of self-introduction in about 2005 when her son Bo Guagua was studying in Britain. They then got involved in a land project that never got off the ground. According to Xinhua, she said Heywood later got into a dispute with her and her son over payment and other issues and she “believed Heywood had threatened the personal safety of her son and decided to kill Heywood.”
It said that according to testimony that prosecutors presented in court, Gu said: “To me, that was more than a threat. It was real action that was taking place. I must fight to my death to stop the craziness of Neil Heywood.”
The report did not detail any alleged threats or say why the murder then took place seven years later when Bo Guagua was a graduate student at Harvard. The court was presented with emails between him and Heywood showing how their dispute escalated, Xinhua said, without detailing the contents.
Xinhua said that family aide Zhang Xiaojun had also confessed and said “sorry” to the relatives of Heywood.
A guilty verdict is all but assured against Gu and Zhang and carries the potential punishment of 10 years in prison up to a death sentence.
Heywood’s mother, Ann, has said previously said she would not be making any statement about the case. In a brief interview earlier this week, Ann Heywood accused journalists of spreading lies about her late son and said that she was cutting off all contact with the media in order to protect his two young children. — AP