- The trial of four police officers accused of concealing Gu Kailai's murder of
Neil Heywood (left. And right), wife of the former boss of Chongqing, Bo Xilai, opened today. Their
trial takes place immediately after Gu's, which ended yesterday in a record six
hours, the verdict is expected in the coming days.
According to South China Morning Post sources the trial will begin against Wang Lijun, Bo's former right hand man, guilty of "treason" for having taken refuge in the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu, fearing for his life after discovering that Heywood had been murdered. But nobody is talking about or making any accusations against Bo Xilai, fired from his post as party secretary of Chongqing, halted in his rise to power of the Politburo, but for now only under investigation for some vague "disciplinary irregularities".
The four Hefei policemen are also being brought to trial in Anhui, as was the case with Gu Kailai's trial, famous for its obedience to the central power grid and far from Bo's influence in Chongqing. They are: Guo Weiguo, deputy chief of police in Chongqing, Li Yang, a former head of the criminal investigation team, Wang Zhi and Wang Pengfei, district officers. All are accused of trying to protect Gu "from being prosecuted for her criminal liability."
For her part, Gu Kailai yesterday did not contest the charges of murder, and indeed collaborated revealing names of other persons involved. This will ensure her a more lenient sentence and several lawyers think that she will escape the death penalty and will receive only 10-15 years in prison.
At the trial yesterday only hand picked journalists from state press were present. The others had to settle for the story as recounted by the official spokesmen. According to this version, last November Gu Kailai visited Heywood at the Nanshan Lijing Holiday Hotel and drank alcohol and tea with him. After getting drunk and vomiting, Heywood asked for a glass of water. Gu brought it to him, but it was a poison brought by her butler, Zhang Xiaojun.
Heywood had threatened to reveal to the public the illegal economic trafficking they had carried out together that has enriched the family of Bo and Gu. Yet never once was the name of Bo Xilai uttered during the trial.
It is likely that the silence surrounding Bo will also dominate in the trial against Wang Lijun, to be held in Chengdu in a few days. Wang was a close associate of Bo in his neo-Maoist campaign complete with populist gestures, revivalist songs and crackdown on the triads and corrupt cadres. This past February - when he claims to have discovered that Heywood had been murdered - he sought asylum in the U.S. consulate in Chengdu to ask the status of political refugee. Failing to obtain it, he was arrested and led away by police.
He is accused of "treason" for trying to flee the country and is likely to face the death sentence. But he also cooperated during the investigation and perhaps will receive a lighter sentence.
The question remains what will happen to Bo Xilai. Son of leading revolutionaries, from the lineage of "princelings", rich and powerful thanks to their forefathers, he has been marginalized in the power struggle for control of the Politburo, which should be almost completely renewed in the autumn.
Several analysts see the Chongqing saga as a sign of the struggle within the Party. Yesterday, while the court met to judge Gu Kailai, some Bo supporters demonstrated against what they call a rigged trial that has already been decided. The police detained and dispersed them.
The fact remains that the party - whose credibility is at a historic low - fears that digging around in Bo's life will reveal the rottenness of a political class that is enriched in a superlative way at the expense of the population. That is why media access to the trial and report is monitored with the comments on blogs obscured; national newspapers only giving the official court report as issued by Xinhua. Everything has to be quickly resolved to focus on celebrating the swollen rhetoric of the 18th Congress of the Communist Party of China in Autumn.