Gu Trial in China Seen as Political Opera
Gu Trial in China Seen as Political Opera

Gu Kailai is led into the courtroom
Gu Kailai is led into the courtroom at the Intermediate People's Court in Hefei, Anhui Province, on Aug. 9. She confessed to the murder of Briton Neil Heywood in a narrative that many observers thought apocryphal. (China Central Television)

The murder trial of Gu Kailai seemed staged, according to political observers, who wondered whether there had been a political deal made behind the scenes.

Gu Kailai, wife of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai, was given a two-year suspended death sentence for murdering British businessman Neil Heywood. Zhang Xiaojun, an employee of the Bo family, was sentenced to nine years in prison for assisting her.

The four Chongqing police officers accused of covering up the murder were sentenced to between five and 11 years in prison. All six defendants accepted their sentences and expressed no intention to appeal, according to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) mouthpiece Xinhua

Gu Kailai’s response to her suspended death sentence was aired on China Central Television: “I think the sentence is fair,” she was reported saying.

Xinhua stated that Gu Kailai has taken full responsibility for her criminal conduct, even though she was allegedly suffering from a mental disorder. She was aware of the consequence of murdering Heywood, but unable to control herself, so the narrative said.

Reporters in China thought the trial was farcical. “A mentally disordered person said the sentence was fair—who would believe it,” one said, according to Central News Agency, a Taiwanese state news outlet.
 
A media worker told CNA that it was surprising to see Hong Kong and foreign media reporting the trial outcome before the Chinese state media did. “Everyone knows that the trial was a scripted show. But [Chinese reporters] could not figure out ahead of time how to present the news, which parts to publish, and which ones to edit out. Something must have gone wrong with the people up there whose job it was to make sure everyone writes the same thing about the trial.”

The Gu Kailai trial has been regarded as the most important show trial in China since the sentencing of the “Gang of Four”—a group tried as traitors, including Mao Zedong’s widow—at the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1981.

Analysts said the outcome of the Gu trial was predetermined, with the judges and others acting out a pre-written script.

The hearing process took only seven hours. There was tacit cooperation between the defendants and the prosecutor, who said the evidence was clear and sufficient that Gu and Zhang used poison to murder Heywood. Gu admitted all allegations and even thanked the prosecutor for their “humane” treatment.

A Voice of America article commented that the cooperation between the prosecutor and Gu Kailai seemed like a political soap opera; they were actors on stage and all knew who was backstage—the important details of the trial were predetermined internally.

A report by Radio France International reached a similar conclusion: “In China, where the legal process is no different from a child’s play, the Gu trial was merely a scripted ‘show.’ The goal was to bring closure to the Wang Lijun matter and completely delete Bo Xilai from the picture. In order to achieve a balance of power, the Party’s top leaders have joined together to deal with this social crisis.”

Professor Kerry Brown, the director of the China Studies Center at the University of Sydney, made similar remarks in an article in The Australian, a daily newspaper there.

“From the word go, this whole process has been more about control than about justice,” he said. “The Party’s dearest wish, as it prepares itself for a leadership succession some time later this year, is that the drama of Gu and her trial will be forgotten as soon as possible.”

There has been much speculation about the fate of former Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun, Bo Xilai’s former deputy, who was said to have delivered the details of the Heywood murder and other evidence about Bo, to U.S. officials at the consulate in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.

Boxun, a U.S.-based Chinese language news website, recently said a secret trial for Wang will be held in Chengdu this week, and Wang would be sentenced to 15 years for defection—rather than treason.

Editor’s Note: When Chongqing’s former top cop, Wang Lijun, fled for his life to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu on Feb. 6, he set in motion a political storm that has not subsided. The battle behind the scenes turns on what stance officials take toward the persecution of Falun Gong. The faction with bloody hands-the officials former CCP head Jiang Zemin promoted in order to carry out the persecution-is seeking to avoid accountability for their crimes and to continue the campaign. Other officials are refusing any longer to participate in the persecution. Events present a clear choice to the officials and citizens of China, as well as people around the world: either support or oppose the persecution of Falun Gong. History will record the choice each person makes.

Read the original Chinese article.

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