Hefei (AsiaNews /
Agencies) - Kailai Gu, the wife of Bo Xilai, the disgraced former chief of
Chongqing, has been sentenced to death by the court in Anhui for the killing of
British businessman Neil Heywood. The judgment, however, was
suspended for two years. Again,
neither the media nor the court mentioned the name of her husband, who until a
few months ago was considered one of the possible candidates for the Politburo
Standing Committee, the supreme power in China.
The two-year suspension of the judgment indicates that if Gu behaves well, the death penalty will be commuted to life imprisonment and perhaps even reduced, until she is free in a few years.
At the trial, held over a few hours on August 9, Gu Kailai admitted she poisoned Heywood with cyanide, but claimed she did so under great stress because the recruiter - who had collaborated in unclear business transactions with the family of Bo - had threatened the life of her son Gu Guagua. Kailai Gu's butler who helped in the murder, was sentenced to 9 years in prison.
Gu's verdict closes one of the most intricate scandals in the history of the Communist Party, a few weeks from Congress that should lead to the resignation of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao and the launch of the fifth generation of leaders, with Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang as new president and premier. Together, Congress should also see the restructuring of the Politburo. The fall of Bo, who is also a leader of the Fifth Generation, is a powerful sign of a power struggle within the Party. At the same time, the condemnation of Gu Kailai without in any way implicating her husband Bo - in collaboration in the murder, in the concealment of the fact, in corrupt economic cooperation with the victim - is an attempt to save a minimum of dignity for the party in a period of great scandal and contempt by the population.
As soon as Gu's verdict was released, the Chinese blogs were filled with over 2 million comments, criticizing the suspended sentence, the first step towards her release, perhaps for medical reasons. As at the time of trial, all the news reports that explicitly speak of Gu and Bo are censored.
Two British diplomats were admitted to Gu's trial. The British Embassy in Beijing issued a message that it applauds the fact that "Chinese authorities investigated the death of Neil Heywood and prosecuted those who have been identified as responsible."
The message points out that Britain has " consistently made clear to the Chinese authorities that we wanted to see the trials in this case conform to international human rights standards and for the death penalty not to be applied."
Meanwhile, in another trial held on August 10, four heads of the Chongqing police department were prosecuted for concealing evidence of the murder of Heywood. Bo Xilai, the once powerful and charismatic leader of Chongqing, was never mentioned here either. The policemen were sentenced to 5 to 11 years in prison.