Chinese politician Bo Xilai has been found guilty of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power and sentenced to life imprisonment having the right to appeal.
Bo Xilai had denied all the charges against him in a fiery defense at his trial.
The former party chief of Chongqing was removed from office last year amid a scandal which saw his wife Gu Kailai convicted for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.
The verdict was handed down by the Intermediate People’s Court in Jinan, Shandong province.
Passing sentence the judge told Bo Xilai that he had damaged China’s national interests and the interests of its people, wrongfully using his position in power to receive bribes totalling 20 million Chinese Yuan ($3.2 million).
The judge rejected Bo Xilai’s claims that his confession to the crimes was acquired through illegal means such as torture and interrogation, and said it therefore stood.
During Bo Xilai’s trial last month the court took the unprecedented step of releasing details about proceedings on its Weibo microblog.
Bo Xilai was sentenced to life in prison on the bribery charges, 15 years for embezzlement and seven years for abuse of power. In addition all his personal wealth has been confiscated.
He has 10 days to appeal against his sentence and conviction, but correspondents say that any such move is highly unlikely to be successful.
Bo Xilai has been found guilty of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power and sentenced to life imprisonment
Although his trial was conducted under an unprecedented degree of openness for China, many analysts say that the guilty verdict was always a foregone conclusion – and many see the process against him as having a very strong political dimension.
Prosecutors had said that Bo Xilai accepted the bribes and embezzled public funds from Dalian, where he used to be mayor.
Bo Xilai was also accused of abusing his office by using his position to cover up for his wife Gu Kailai, convicted last year of murdering Neil Heywood in 2011.
In lengthy comments in court, he said he did not illegally obtain millions of dollars or cover up Neil Heywood’s killing.
He also dismissed the testimony of two key witnesses, describing his wife’s statement as “ridiculous” and his former police chief Wang Lijun’s testimony as “full of lies and fraud”.
Bo Xilai’s fall from power was triggered when Wang sought refuge in the US consulate in Chengdu in February 2012.
The incident prompted an investigation into the death of Neil Heywood. Wang Lijun has since been jailed for 15 years for helping Gu Kailai cover up the murder.
The Bo Xilai scandal triggered a crisis in the Communist Party, which was about to hold its once-in-a-decade leadership handover, and revealed divisions at the top of the party over how Bo should be handled.
Two years ago Bo Xilai was seen as a candidate for promotion to the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s top decision-making body.
His downfall was seen as the biggest political shake-up to hit China’s ruling elite in decades.
Bo Xilai’s trial also offered the public a rare glimpse into the life of China’s rich and powerful, with lurid details emerging of lavish vacations and luxury villas.
Earlier this week, an overseas-based dissident Chinese news website published a letter allegedly written by Bo Xilai in prison on September 12.
Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post said that unidentified insiders with close ties to Bo Xilai had confirmed that the letter, addressed to Bo’s family, was genuine.
“I am an innocent victim and I feel wronged,” the letter read.
“But I believe one day truth will prevail…I will wait quietly in jail for that day to come.”
Bo Xilai has dismissed testimony from his wife, Gu Kailai, at his trial, saying she was unstable and had been coerced.
Video footage and written testimony from Gu Kailai, who was convicted last year of the murder of Neil Heywood, was posted on the court’s official microblog.
In it she said she felt Neil Heywood was a threat to her son, Bo Guagua.
Gu Kailai also spoke of receiving gifts from a Dalian entrepreneur, Xu Ming, from whom Bo Xilai is accused of taking bribes.
Bo Xilai, the former Chongqing Communist Party chief, is accused of bribery, corruption and abuse of power.
On Thursday he denied bribery, saying he had been forced into admitting it to prosecutors, and rubbished testimony from witnesses including his wife.
Of Gu Kailai’stestimony on Friday, Bo Xilai reportedly said: “In her unstable mental state, prosecutors put pressure on her so she would turn on me.”
Foreign media are not being allowed into the trial, which is taking place in the city of Jinan in Shandong province.
Analysts say the trial is as much about getting rid of a popular politician as it is about criminal wrongdoing. Bo Xilai is widely expected to be found guilty.
Bo Xilai has dismissed testimony from his wife, Gu Kailai, at his trial, saying she was unstable and had been coerced
Bo Xilai’s downfall was seen as the biggest political shake-up to hit China’s ruling elite in decades. In February 2012 his police chief, Wang Lijun, fled to the US consulate in Chengdu amid an apparent fall-out with Bo Xilai.
Shortly afterwards, Chinese authorities announced that they were reinvestigating the death of Neil Heywood, who died in a Chongqing hotel in November 2011.
Gu Kailai has since been jailed for the murder of Neil Heywood – a crime she carried out, state media say, because of differences over a business deal.
In written testimony to the court, she said she believed that the personal safety of her son “was under threat”.
“In the second half of 2011 Guagua made a video call to me on his iPad telling me that Neil Heywood threatened him,” she said. Subsequent e-mails between the two scared her, she said.
“After the video call I was very worried which led to the 15 November crime [when Neil Heywood was killed].”
Written testimony from Patrick Devillers, a French architect, meanwhile, pointed to conflict between Gu Kailai and Neil Heywood over a financial deal related to a villa in France that has been a focus of the bribery charges.
It was paid for by Xu Ming, the court heard on Thursday, one of two men from whom Bo Xilai is accused of receiving bribes totalling 21.8 million yuan ($3.56 million).
In her video testimony Gu Kailai said it was true that Xu Ming had bought things for her and her son, Bo Guagua.
“When we need to book a flight, family members know to ask from Xu Ming,” she said.
Bo Xilai, responding to his wife’s testimony, is reported to have said: “How much credibility is there are about Bo Gu Kailai’s testimony, and her written material? Bo Gu Kailai has changed and she became crazy and lies all the time.”
It is not clear how long the trial will last. Bo Xilai is the last major player in connection with the Neil Heywood case to face judicial proceedings.
His son, Bo Guagua, remains in the US, where earlier this week he said any verdict would carry no moral weight if his “well-being has been bartered for my father’s acquiescence or my mother’s further co-operation”.
Bo Guagua also said his mother had been unwell since 2006, following a “sudden collapse of her physical health”.
Bo Guagua, the son of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai, says he hopes his father will be allowed to defend himself “without constraints” at his upcoming trial.
In a statement to the New York Times, Bo Guagua said he had been denied contact with his parents for 18 months.
Bo Xilai – a former party high-flier – goes on trial on Thursday charged with bribery, corruption and abuse of power.
He was expelled from the Communist Party amid a scandal over the murder of a British businessman, Neil Heywood.
Bo Xilai’s wife, Gu Kailai, was jailed in August 2012 for the killing of Neil Heywood, reportedly over a deal gone wrong.
The scandal led to a shake-up at the very top of China’s political elite in the months preceding a once-in-a-decade leadership handover.
Bo Guagua, who was studying in the US when the scandal unfolded, has since kept a low profile.
“It has been 18 months since I have been denied contact with either my father or my mother. I can only surmise the conditions of their clandestine detention and the adversity they each endure in solitude,” he said in a statement to the New York Times.
Bo Guagua hopes his father Bo Xilai will be allowed to defend himself at his upcoming trial
“I hope that in my father’s upcoming trial, he is granted the opportunity to answer his critics and defend himself without constraints of any kind.”
“However, if my well-being has been bartered for my father’s acquiescence or my mother’s further co-operation, then the verdict will clearly carry no moral weight.”
Some reports have suggested that Gu Kailai may testify against her husband at the trial.
There has been speculation that both the parents agreed to demands from Chinese officials in return for a guarantee that their son would not be pursued.
Bo Guagua also spoke out in defense of his mother, describing her as “silenced and defenseless” and voicing concern about her state of health.
“She has already overcome unimaginable tribulation after the sudden collapse of her physical health in 2006 and subsequent seclusion,” he said.
State media, in reports of Gu Kailai’s trial, said she attributed her actions to a breakdown.
Bo Guagua last released a statement in September, saying he found the allegations against his father hard to believe.
He is soon to begin studying law in New York, he confirmed to the New York Times.
The scandal emerged after Bo Xilai’s police chief, Wang Lijun, fled to the US consulate in February 2012.
A month later, Bo Xilai was removed from his post as party chief in Chongqing and then stripped of his Communist Party posts as his wife was investigated for the murder of Neil Heywood.
Gu Kailai was subsequently convicted of poisoning the businessman to death and is in prison, as is the police chief, Wang Lijun, for abuse of power related to the subsequent cover-up.
Bo Xilai, meanwhile, has not been seen in public since March 2012.
He goes on trial on Thursday in the city of Jinan accused of taking advantage of his office to accept money and property, as well as embezzling public money.
Most political analysts believe that the outcome of the trial has already been decided and that Bo Xilai will almost certainly be found guilty.
Neil Heywood, the British businessman killed in China by Bo Xilai’s wife, had been providing information to the British secret service, the Wall Street Journal newspaper claims.
Neil Heywood had been communicating with an MI6 officer about top politician Bo Xilai for at least a year before he died, the paper said.
The UK Foreign Office said it would not comment “on intelligence matters”.
In April, Foreign Secretary William Hague said Neil Heywood was not a government employee “in any capacity”.
The case is at the heart of China’s biggest political scandal in decades.
The November 2011 death of Neil Heywood brought down Bo Xilai, the former Communist Party chief of Chongqing and a high-flier who was once tipped for top office.
Bo Xilai’s wife, Gu Kailai, was jailed in August for the murder of Neil Heywood at a Chongqing hotel. His former police chief, Wang Lijun, has also been jailed in connection with the scandal.
Bo Xilai himself was expelled from parliament in September, stripping him of immunity from prosecution. He is accused of abuse of power, bribe-taking and violating party discipline, Chinese state media say, and is expected to go on trial in the future.
Ever since Neil Heywood’s death plunged China into political crisis, there have been claims the Briton may have been a spy.
Citing unnamed friends and British officials, the Wall Street Journal said that while Neil Heywood was not an MI6 employee, he had knowingly passed on information to the organization.
“The Journal investigation, based on interviews with current and former British officials and close friends of the murdered Briton, found that a person Mr. Heywood met in 2009 later acknowledged being an MI6 officer to him,” the Wall Street Journal says in its report.
“Mr. Heywood subsequently met that person regularly in China and continued to provide information on Mr. Bo’s private affairs.”
Neil Heywood’s relatives declined to comment, the paper added.
Neil Heywood had been communicating with an MI6 officer about top politician Bo Xilai for at least a year before he died
In a letter to a British MP on 26 April, William Hague addressed speculation over Neil Heywood, even as he said it was “long established government policy neither to confirm nor deny speculation of this sort”.
“However, given the intense interest in this case it is, exceptionally, appropriate… to confirm that Mr. Heywood was not an employee of the British government in any capacity,” he said.
The newspaper, citing unidentified sources, says this was technically true because Neil Heywood was not paid for his information.
But there are new questions about why, if Neil Heywood was known to Britain’s intelligence services, British officials did not press their Chinese counterparts for a thorough investigation as soon as they knew he had died.
Neil Heywood, 41, had lived in China from the early 1990s, where he learned fluent Mandarin.
The nature of his association with Bo Xilai and his wife Gu Kailai is not clear, but he has been described in some reports as a financial middleman. Chinese state media say Gu Kailai killed him over a business deal that went sour.
The case first came to light when police chief Wang Lijun fled to the US consulate in February, reportedly after falling out with Bo Xilai over the Heywood case.
Chinese officials subsequently ordered that an investigation into Neil Heywood’s death be reopened. Police had originally said he died of over-consumption of alcohol.
Five senior police officers in Chongqing have also been jailed, Chinese state media say, for covering up the case.
Chinese parliament has formally expelled disgraced politician Bo Xilai from the top legislature, state media has announced.
The move strips the ex-Chongqing party leader of immunity from prosecution.
Bo Xilai was expelled from the Communist Party last month. State media said he was accused of abuse of power, bribe-taking and violating party discipline.
His wife, Gu Kailai, was jailed in August for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.
Bo Xilai’s former deputy, police chief Wang Lijun, has also been jailed in connection with the scandal, which came as China prepared for its 10-yearly power transition.
Legislators are due to meet on 8 November for a Congress at which the new top leaders will be unveiled.
The move to strip Bo Xilai of his last official position had been expected.
“The Standing Committee of the 11th National People’s Congress (NPC) on Friday announced the termination of Bo Xilai’s post as the NPC deputy,” said the brief statement from Xinhua news agency.
The action means that a criminal case against Bo Xilai – a former high-flier once tipped for the top echelons of power – can move ahead.
When he was expelled from the party last month, a statement said his “suspected law violations” would be transferred to “judicial organs”. A timescale for this process and any subsequent trial have not been announced.
Bo Xilai has not been seen in public since the investigation into him and his family was announced.
On Thursday the Washington Post, citing two people close to his wife’s family, said his relatives had been warned not to hire lawyers for him.
The investigation into Bo Xilai was triggered when Wang Lijun fled to the US consulate in Chongqing and implicated Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, in the death of Neil Heywood.
Gu Kailai was subsequently given a suspended death sentence for his murder after a one-day trial. Wang Lijun has been jailed for 15 years on a number of charges.
Bo Xilai had been seen as a leading candidate for a position in the party’s top decision-making body – the Standing Committee of the politburo – in the leadership change set for next month.
A charismatic lawmaker, his populist policies, crackdown on crime and promotion of “red” culture – harking back to the Mao Zedong era – brought him supporters.
His downfall was seen as exposing divisions between more reformist and more left-leaning groupings among China’s top leaders.
A group of leftists in China have written an open letter asking parliament not to expel disgraced leader Bo Xilai.
The letter, signed by more than 300 academics and former officials, was carried on the left-wing Chinese-language website Red China.
It said the move was legally questionable and politically motivated.
China’s leftists are a small but vocal group to whom Bo Xilai’s populist policies appealed.
Expulsion from parliament would remove Bo Xilai’s immunity, meaning he could be prosecuted over the scandal that has seen his wife Gu Kailai jailed.
Gu Kailai was given a suspended death sentence earlier this year over the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.
Bo Xilai’s former police chief and right-hand man Wang Lijun has also been jailed in connection with the scandal.
More than 300 academics and former party officials signed the letter in support of the former Chongqing Communist Party leader.
“What is the reason provided for expelling Bo Xilai? Please investigate the facts and the evidence,” the letter said.
“Please announce to the people evidence that Bo Xilai will be able to defend himself in accordance with the law.”
Those who signed include Li Chengrui, former director of the National Bureau of Statistics, a law professor at Peking University, local legislators, members of the now-closed online leftist forum Utopia, as well as a rights activist in Zhejiang.
Many Chinese internet users cannot access the Red China website, which has supported Bo Xilai, and the letter so far does not appear to have been reported in state media.
But the letter exposes the deep divisions that continue to exist within the party over the Bo Xilai affair.
Bo Xilai’s flamboyant populist style – including the promotion of old party songs and his policies for state-led growth – pitted him against reformist colleagues.
He has not been seen in public since mid-March, shortly after the scandal erupted and it was announced he was under investigation.
Bo Xilai was suspended from his party posts in April and expelled from the Communist Party in September. State media says he faces charges related to corruption, abuse of power and bribe-taking.
His wife Gu Kailai was convicted of killing Neil Heywood after a multi-million dollar business deal turned sour.
But supporters maintain that Bo Xilai’s enemies have used this scandal to end his career for political reasons.
Bo Xilai, 63, had been a prime candidate for a top post in the leadership handover set for next month before the scandal broke.
Wang Xuemei, a prominent Chinese forensic scientist, has cast doubt on the official version of the death of British businessman Neil Heywood, which triggered a huge political scandal in China.
Wang Xuemei said there was little evidence Neil Heywood died from cyanide poisoning.
Neil Heywood was found dead in a hotel room in November 2011.
Last month the wife of a prominent Chinese politician was found guilty of murdering him by poisoning.
However, the account given in court of how Gu Kailai killed Neil Heywood does not tally with cyanide poisoning, according to Wang Xuemei, who works for China’s top prosecutor’s office.
Wang Xuemei said there was little evidence Neil Heywood died from cyanide poisoning
Cyanide poisoning would have caused lightning-fast asphyxia, spasms and a heart attack and turned his skin and blood bright red, which investigators would easily have spotted, she says.
A simple test for cyanide is also standard forensic practice in China, but none was presented in court, she adds.
Wang Xuemei says she believes Gu Kailai did have a motive to kill Neil Heywood and suggests that she used another poison to try and kill him.
No post-mortem examination was carried out on Neil Heywood’s body, which was cremated.
Gu Kailai was given a suspended death sentence, and her husband Bo Xilai, previously one of the most powerful figures in the ruling Communist Party, has been suspended from his position on the Politburo.
Gu Kailai’s aide, Zhang Xiaojun, was jailed for nine years for his part in the murder, while the regional police chief, Wang Lijun, received a sentence of 15 years for abuse of power and other offences.
The trials were closed to foreign journalists and no scientific evidence to show Neil Heywood was poisoned has been made public.
The new claims come just weeks before a crucial once-in-a-decade leadership change expected at a party congress this autumn.
From the very start there have been doubts about the official version of Neil Heywood’s death in a hotel room in Chongqing last November.
Initially the cause was said to be alcohol poisoning or a heart attack.
But in February, Wang Lijun fled the city after falling out with Bo Xilai and claimed that Neil Heywood had been murdered.
Bo Xilai’s supporters have claimed from the start that he is being framed by his political enemies.
Wang Lijun, the ex-police chief at the heart of China’s biggest political scandal in years, has been sentenced to 15 years in jail.
Wang Lijun was jailed for ”bending the law for selfish ends, defection, abuse of power and bribetaking”, Xinhua said.
His flight in February to a US consulate led to the downfall of his ex-boss, top politician Bo Xilai.
Bo Xilai’s wife, Gu Kailai, was convicted in August of killing British businessman Neil Heywood. Wang Lijun was accused of helping in a cover-up.
Wang Lijun – the former chief of police in the city of Chongqing, where Bo Xilai was Communist Party leader – had faced up to 20 years in jail, but prosecutors called his co-operation “meritorious service”.
The ”combined term” of 15 years in prison included nine years for bribery, seven for bending the law, two for defection and two for abuse of power, state television reported.
Wang Lijun has been sentenced to 15 years in jail
”We decided to sentence him to 15 years altogether on all the four charges and deprive [him of] his political rights for one year,” court spokesman Yang Yuquan told reporters.
”Wang Lijun said he wouldn’t appeal after hearing the verdict,” Yang Yuquan said.
The verdict was ”in accordance with the law”, he added, saying three of Wang Lijun’s relatives were at the hearing.
Wang’s lawyer, Wang Yuncai, also told the Associated Press that the sentence was ”considered normal” under Chinese law.
The verdict comes as China prepares to select new leaders in coming weeks.
It is due to hold a party congress that will see major changes in the top echelons of leadership, although specific dates have not been announced.
Wang’s trial took place last week in Chengdu. A court official said after the two-day hearing that he had not contested the charges.
The indictment against Wang said he knew that Gu Kailai was a murder suspect.
Wang Lijun, however, ”bent the law” by appointing Guo Weiguo – the deputy chief of Chongqing’s Public Security Bureau and ”a close friend” of both Wang and Gu – to oversee the case , a Xinhua report said.
Wang Lijun hid a recording of Gu Kailai’s account of the killing from the police, the report added.
But conflict arose between Wang Lijun and Gu Kailai, after which Wang told investigators to ”re-collect, sort through and carefully keep the evidence” from the case, the report said.
During his term in Chongqing Wang had also committed other offences, including illegally releasing four suspects in return for property and money totaling more than 3 million yuan ($476,000), Xinhua said.
Gu Kailai was given a suspended death sentence for the crime. At a separate trial on 10 August, four senior police officers from Chongqing admitted covering up evidence linking her to the murder and were jailed for between five and 11 years.
Bo Xilai has not been seen in public since the scandal erupted and is said to be under investigation by the Communist party’s disciplinary officials. He has been removed from his official posts.
But it is not known whether the former party chief – who was tipped for promotion to the top ranks before his downfall – will face criminal charges himself.
At Wang Lijun’s trial last week, Bo Xilai was said to have reacted with anger when the police chief told him of his wife’s involvement in the murder of Neil Heywood, “boxing the ears” of his former ally.
Bo Xilai’s populist brand of politics – an authoritarian crackdown on corruption coupled with the promotion of old communist values – is said to have made him enemies.
They may be pushing for a criminal trial that removes him from the political landscape for a very long time.
Chinese ex-police chief Wang Lijun did not contest the charges against him, court officials have said today during his second day of trial.
The Chengdu trial of Wang Lijun for defection, abuse of power and bribe-taking began in secret on Monday and ended on Tuesday.
The verdict would be given at a later date, court officials said.
Wang Lijun’s flight to a US consulate in February sparked events leading to the downfall of top politician Bo Xilai.
Bo Xilai’s wife, Gu Kailai, was later convicted of killing the British businessman Neil Heywood and given a suspended death sentence, after a trial that lasted a day.
Wang Lijun is charged with helping cover up her crime.
The Chengdu trial of Wang Lijun for defection, abuse of power and bribe-taking began in secret on Monday and ended on Tuesday
China said Tuesday’s session was “public” but while state television may broadcast pictures later, access to the Intermediate People’s Court was tightly controlled and foreign media were kept outside.
But after the case ended a court official read out a statement saying the defendant did not contest the charges – leaving little doubt that the verdict, when it comes, will be a guilty one.
Although there was only moderate police presence outside the court, the sensitivity of the case was demonstrated by the fact the first day’s hearing was held in secret, because it involved issues of national security, said Wang Lijun’s lawyer, Wang Yuncai, who is not related to her client.
A brief report in state media said Wang Lijun was standing trial for ”bribe-taking and bending the law for selfish ends”.
”The Chengdu City Intermediate People’s Court held a closed-door trial Monday on Wang’s two other charges of defection and abuse of power,” said the Xinhua news agency report.
Earlier Chinese state media reports said the evidence against Wang Lijun was “concrete and abundant”.
The indictment against him said he knew that Gu Kailai was a murder suspect, but “consciously neglected his duty and bent the law for personal gain”, Xinhua reported.
According to the UK Foreign Office, Wang Lijun made allegations about Neil Heywood’s death while at the US consulate in Chengdu.
Shortly afterwards, Bo Xilai was sacked. Gu Kailai was accused and convicted in August of the murder of Neil Heywood.
Chinese media have been quiet on the trial and searches for Wang Lijun’s name and related terms have mostly been blocked on China’s Twitter-like weibo microblogs.
However, netizens have been using pseudonyms such as “head nurse” – a term that puns on ”deputy mayor” in Chinese – to make comments. Wang Lijun was the deputy mayor of Chongqing.
A microblog user in Guangzhou said: “Good luck, head nurse.”
“There should be a public holiday today, and the head nurse’s trial should be broadcast live on TV so people can have a chance to learn what is the rule of law,” said a microblog user in southern Zhuhai city.
The trial comes ahead of a key party leadership congress in China, expected in the coming weeks.
Wang Lijun’s flight to the US consulate proved an embarrassment for China and threw up issues involving diplomacy and state secrets, analysts say.
But most analysts expect him to be given a suspended death sentence, similar to the one handed to Gu Kailai.
At a separate trial on 10 August, four senior police officers from Chongqing admitted to charges of covering up evidence linking Gu Kailai to the murder. A court official said they had been given terms of between five and 11 years in prison, AFP reported.
Bo Xilai, Wang Lijun’s former boss in Chongqing, had been tipped for promotion to the top leadership ranks at the party congress before his downfall.
He has not been seen in public since the scandal erupted and is said to be under investigation by the party’s disciplinary officials. It is not clear if he will face any criminal charges himself.
Wang Lijun, 52, began his career in law enforcement in the Inner Mongolia Region in 1984 and moved to the southwestern city of Chongqing in 2008.
He had a reputation for being tough on organized crime and was once the subject of a TV drama called Iron-Blooded Police Spirits.
When Gu Kailai was given a suspended death sentence for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, speculation began that the woman in court was a body double.
So what do these kinds of suspicions tell us about modern China?
As soon as footage of Gu Kailai appeared in the official report of the trial, rumors began to circulate on the internet about the identity of the woman in the dock.
Several posts and re-posts surfaced on Chinese social media sites on the same day, with a screen grab of the courtroom scene, suggesting that the woman – who appeared plumper than Gu Kailai- was a body double.
One internet user posted some “before and after” photos and asked: “Are we looking at the same woman? There are rumors that the woman who appeared in the court room is a body double, because whether you are thin or fat, your bone structure shouldn’t change.”
Another user said: “Please note the corner of the mouth, the bags under the eyes and the ears, especially the ears. You might flatten the bags, but you can’t change the shape of your ears.”
When Gu Kailai was given a suspended death sentence for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, speculation began that the woman in court was a body double
This kind of speculation continued through the verdict and sentencing on 20 August and then newspapers joined the fray. One Hong Kong paper – Apple Daily – even reported rumors on 21 August that the stand-in was named Zhao Tianyun, who had been hand-picked by the wife of premier Wen Jiabao.
But the paper also quotes journalist Jiang Weiping, who was in contact with Gu Kailai and her husband Bo Xilai for a number of years, as saying that judging by the face and the gestures, it was really Gu.
The speculation also extended overseas – Britain’s Financial Times went as far as to consult two security experts familiar with facial recognition software who concluded that the person shown in state television footage of the trial was not Gu Kailai.
So do Chinese netizens really believe that a body double was used to shield Gu Kailai, or do they simply want to express their mistrust of the judicial system and of the authorities in general?
The answer perhaps lies in another microblog post by the famous Chinese writer Zhang Yihe.
“There are a lot of questions: did Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang put on a show during the Olympics? Did swimmer Ye Shiwen take drugs? Did Gu Kailai herself attend the trial?” she asked.
“All this reminds us of an ancient fable – crying wolf. In the story the boy only lied once, and nobody believed him afterwards and he was eaten by a wolf.
“The Chinese propaganda machine is luckier – they have been telling lies for over 60 years, and now, everything they say is doubted.”
In fact, Chinese netizens are skeptical about many other aspects of the trial as well. Many think it was overtly political, with no judicial independence and the verdict was a foregone conclusion.
Others are not convinced about the motive presented in the courtroom for killing Neil Heywood, and it is not clear what role, if any, Gu Kailai’s husband – a former high-flying politician – had in the dispute between his wife and the British businessman.
This is also not the first time in China that questions have been raised about the identity of the person in the dock.
In 2009, wealthy 20-year-old Hu Bin killed a pedestrian on the streets of Hangzhou. When the court passed a three-year sentence, allegations surfaced that the man who appeared in court and served the sentence was a hired body double. The authorities had to robustly refute such claims.
Underlying such allegations is a deeply-rooted mistrust of the authorities, the unfairness of the justice system and a perception that the wealthy can escape justice. People tend to err on the side of doubting than believing the official version of anything.
Gu Kailai’s trial was over in seven hours, with only a selected few to witness the proceedings, and both Chinese and foreign journalists were turned away at the door.
There has been very little media coverage about the trial except some standard pieces by Xinhua, the state news agency, that all media outlets dutifully carry. There have been few editorials or commentaries, compared with the extensive coverage over other issues such as the ongoing territorial dispute with Japan.
It is only natural that Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, has become one of the few places where ordinary people talk about the trial and express their concerns. Now the phrase “body double” is blocked, however.
As to whether the real Gu Kailai or a stand-in appeared in court, one can say that the only pictures available from before the trial were taken several years ago, and show a successful lawyer at the peak of her career with a seemingly happy family. So it is possible that time and events have caught up with her.
One should also consider the enormous risks the authorities would have to take for a body double to appear, and wonder what benefit they would gain.
Still, those in power can learn a lot from these episodes on how they can build up public confidence and stop the “crying wolf” vicious circle.
Gu Kailai, wife of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai, has been given a suspended death sentence for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.
Gu Kailai did not contest charges at her one-day trial that she poisoned Neil Heywood in November 2011.
Suspended death sentences are usually commuted to life imprisonment in China.
Bo Xilai, the former communist party chief in Chongqing, was once seen as a contender for a national leadership position in a top-level reshuffle later this year.
But he has not been seen in public since the investigation into Gu Kailai was announced.
Gu Kailai’s aide, Zhang Xiaojun, was jailed for nine years for his part in the murder.
The verdict in China’s most high-profile trial for years came early on Monday, inside a court ringed by security personnel.
Gu Kailai has been given a suspended death sentence for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood
Chinese state media reported that during the 9 August trial – which was not open to all – Gu Kailai admitted she poisoned Neil Heywood in a hotel room in Chongqing, helped by her aide.
She said she had suffered a mental breakdown and that Neil Heywood had threatened her son amid a row over a property deal, state media said.
Images shown on Chinese state television showed Gu Kailai responding to the verdict.
“This verdict is just. It shows special respect for the law, reality and life,” she said.
Speaking after the sentence was announced, court spokesman Tang Yigan said the court believed Neil Heywood had threatened Gu Kailai’s son but not acted on the threats. It also found Gu had been suffering from “psychological impairment”, he said.
In a statement, the British embassy in Beijing said its thoughts were with the family of Neil Heywood.
“We welcome the fact that the Chinese authorities have investigated the death of Neil Heywood, and tried those they identified as responsible,” the statement said.
“We 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.”
A lawyer for the Heywood family said they respected the court’s decision.
The sentence of death with a two-year suspension means that if Gu Kailai commits no crimes while in prison, her sentence will be commuted after two years to life imprisonment and could be further reduced for good behavior, Chinese legal expert Professor Donald Clarke writes in his blog.
Chinese internet users reacted immediately to the verdict on Twitter-like microblogging platforms.
With key names connected to the case still apparently censored, most used the phrase “suspended death sentence”. Within two hours, there were at least two million posts.
Many users expressed dissatisfaction, saying most murderers in China would be executed. Some attributed it to Gu Kailai’s background, others suggested she could eventually be freed under medical parole.
At a separate trial on 10 August, four senior police officers from Chongqing admitted charges of covering up evidence linking Gu Kailai to the murder. A court official said they had been given terms of between five and 11 years in prison, AFP reported.
Neil Heywood’s death was initially recorded as a heart attack.
The case came to light when Bo Xilai’s deputy, police chief Wang Lijun, fled to the US consulate in February, reportedly with information connected to the case.
He has not been seen in public since then and state media say he is being investigated.
It is not yet known how the Communist Party plans to deal with Bo Xilai, once seen as a powerful and ambitious high-flier.
Many analysts expected him to be promoted to the nine-strong politburo Standing Committee later in the year.
Seven committee members are due to retire, with a new generation of leaders to take their place at a party congress expected later this year.
But Bo Xilai has been stripped of his official posts and is being investigated for “discipline violations”, state media reports say.
A lengthy Xinhua news agency write-up of Gu Kailai’s trial, however, made no mention of Bo Xilai.
BO XILAI SCANDAL
• 6 February: Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun flees to the US consulate in Chengdu
• 15 March: Bo Xilai is removed from his post in Chongqing
• 20 March: Rumors suggest Bo Xilai could be linked to the death of British businessman Neil Heywood
• 10 April: Bo Xilai is suspended from party posts and his wife, Gu Kailai, is investigated over Neil Heywood’s death
• 26 July: Gu Kailai and Bo family employee Zhang Xiaojun are charged with killing Neil Heywood
• 9 August: Gu Kailai goes on trial for murder
• 20 August: Gu Kailai given suspended death sentence
The verdict in the murder trial of Gu Kailai, wife of former politician Bo Xilai, will be delivered on Monday, Chinese officials say.
Gu Kailai was tried for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood in Hefei city, Anhui province, on 9 August.
A court official told reporters Gu Kailai had not contested allegations that she killed Neil Heywood by poisoning.
Neil Heywood was found dead at a hotel in Chongqing in November 2011.
“On Monday the court will reconvene and announce the verdict and sentence,” Zhang Mingwu, deputy director of the information office of Anhui province, told AFP news.
Gu Kailai was tried for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood in Hefei city, Anhui province, on 9 August
A court spokeswoman said the verdict was scheduled for 09:00 local time, Reuters news agency reported.
Gu Kailai was tried along with her aide, Zhang Xiaojun, who was described by the court as an accomplice.
The two defendants face a possible death penalty if found guilty.
Analysts say given the reports a guilty verdict appears almost certain, but point to suggestions in state media that Gu Kailai may have been trying to protect her son as signs her case could be treated with a degree of leniency.
The scandal surrounding Ms Gu, herself a prominent lawyer, appears to have ended Bo Xilai’s political career.
Bo Xilai was the Communist party chief in the city of Chongqing but was sacked in March and is currently under investigation for unspecified “disciplinary violations”. He has not been mentioned in Gu Kailai’s case.
The trial and verdict come as China prepares to install a new generation of leaders at a once-in-a-decade congress to be held in the next two or three months.
Seven members of the nine-strong politburo Standing Committee are due to retire.
Bo Xilai was once thought to be a key candidate for promotion to the top leadership, but has not been seen in public since the investigation into his wife was announced.
Gu Kailai, wife of disgraced top politician Bo Xilai, has admitted murdering British businessman Neil Heywood and blamed her actions on a mental breakdown, Chinese state media report.
The Xinhua news agency reports Gu Kailai has apologized for the “tragedy”.
She said she would “accept and calmly face any sentence”, the agency added.
Gu Kailai was charged with the murder of Neil Heywood, who was found dead in November 2011, in a one-day trial on Thursday.
Gu Kailai has admitted murdering Neil Heywood and blamed her actions on a mental breakdown
The prosecution alleged Gu kailai and her son Bo Guagua fell out with Neil Heywood over “economic interests” and that Gu Kailai was worried about “Neil Heywood’s threat to her son’s personal security”.
The Xinhua report said that Gu Kailai had addressed the court towards the end of its session, and said: “Those few days last November, when I saw how my son was in danger, I suffered a nervous breakdown. A tragedy happened because of me”.
Earlier on Friday, four senior police officers admitted covering up evidence linking Gu Kailai to the murder, a court official said.
The dates for the verdicts in both trials are yet to be announced.
The case appears to have ended the career of Chongqing’s ex-leader Bo Xilai, who had been seen as a likely candidate for a top job in the leadership transition due later this year.
Seven members of the nine-strong politburo Standing Committee are due to retire, paving the way for a new generation of leaders.
But former high-flier Bo Xilai, a populist and an ambitious politician, has not been seen in public since the investigation into his wife was announced.
The trial of Bo Xilai’s wife, Gu Kailai, for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood has ended in the Chinese city of Hefei, after one day.
A court official told reporters Gu Kailai had not contested the charge that she killed Neil Heywood by poisoning in 2011.
The date of the verdict would be announced later, the official said.
Gu Kailai is the wife of former high-flying politician Bo Xilai, whose career in office was ended by the scandal surrounding Neil Heywood’s death.
Gu Kailai, herself a prominent lawyer, is on trial along with her aide, Zhang Xiaojun, who was described by the court as an accomplice.
Two British diplomats were in court to observe the trial, but no foreign media were given permission to attend.
In an unusual news briefing outside the court, the court official, Tang Yigan, said Gu Kailai and Zhang Xiaojun “did not raise objections to the facts and the charges of intentional homicide”.
The trial of Bo Xilai’s wife, Gu Kailai, for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood has ended in the Chinese city of Hefei, after one day
Reading from a statement, Tang Yigan said the prosecution alleged that Gu Kailai had been involved in a business dispute with Neil Heywood, and believed he had “threatened the personal safety of her son… and decided to kill him”.
The prosecution alleged she had arranged for Neil Heywood to travel to Chongqing from Beijing, accompanied by Zhang Xiaojun.
Gu Kailai spent the evening of 13 November with Neil Heywood at the Nanshan Lijing Holiday Hotel, where they drank tea and alcoholic drinks.
“After Heywood became intoxicated, vomited and asked for a drink of water, she poured a poison into his mouth that had been prepared beforehand and that she had given to Zhang Xiaojun to bring along, causing Heywood’s death,” said the statement.
“The facts of the crime are clear and backed by ample evidence,” it said.
Tang Yigan said Gu Kailai had been “in good shape and mentally stable,” throughout the trial.
“The trial committee will announce the verdict after discussion,” he said.
The two defendants face a possible death penalty if found guilty.
China’s state news agency Xinhua later reported that four police officers would go on trial on Friday, accused of trying to protect Gu Kailai from prosecution.
Neil Heywood’s body was found at the hotel in Chongqing in November 2011.
The death was recorded as a heart attack at the time, but four months later Bo Xilai’s right-hand man, police chief Wang Lijun, fled to a US consulate to allege murder and a massive cover-up.
Bo Xilai was the Communist party head in Chongqing at the time of Neil Heywood’s death.
He had been seen as a strong contender for one of China’s top jobs, as the country prepares to install a new generation of leaders.
But he was sacked in March and is currently under investigation for unspecified “disciplinary violations.
The facts of the case may be as they have been reported by the court, but that there is a strong political element to the story.
The case raises questions about corruption at the highest level, so it is almost certain that this will be a politically managed trial as well as a criminal one.
The court may take into account mitigating circumstances in its verdict, he adds, including the assertion that Gu Kailai had been concerned for her safety and that of her son.
Gu Kailai, Zhang Xiaojun and Bo Xilai have not been seen in public since April, when the investigation was announced.
One of Gu Kailai’s supporters, who gave his name as Mr. Han, criticized the process of the trial, and said she should have been allowed to choose her own lawyer rather than accept one appointed by the court.
“She should have been granted the right to defend herself to the media,” he said.
“I won’t accept any verdict before I hear their side of the story.”
But there was a mixed reaction on Chinese social media, with many posts expressing satisfaction at the verdict.
“All the corrupt officials try their best to sing the praises of the present system, but I wonder what they say now after they have been tried!” said Lian Zhugen on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter.
The trial is being held in Hefei, 1,000 km (650 miles) from Chongqing.
New sources have come forward to corroborate claims that Gu Kailai, the wife of disgraced former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai, once had an affair with Neil Heywood, the British businessman she is accused of murdering, before their relationship soured and Gu became “mentally unstable.”
Gu Kailai, who formerly had a high-flying career as a lawyer, is currently being detained by central government authorities on suspicion of murdering Neil Heywood, a Briton allegedly in Gu’s “inner circle” whose body was cremated without an autopsy after being discovered in a Chongqing hotel room last November. Her husband Bo Xilai, a flamboyant politician once tipped to rise to the highest echelon of power, has also been detained for “serious discipline violations” rumored to include corruption involving hundreds of millions of dollars.
Gu Kailai’s arrest over Neil Heywood’s death has sparked widespread speculation that the two may have been romantically involved. Neil Heywood had known the Bo family since the 1990s, when Bo Xilai was the major of the northeastern Chinese of Dalian, and was said to have looked after the couple’s son, Bo Guagua, who has been studying in the UK and US since the age of 12.
Gu Kailai also reportedly introduced Neil Heywood to his Chinese-born wife, Wang Lulu, who recently visited the British embassy amid claims that she was planning to escape the country with her two children by Neil Heywood.
Gu Kailai, who formerly had a high-flying career as a lawyer, is currently being detained by central government authorities on suspicion of murdering Neil Heywood
Now two separate sources have told UK newspaper the Times that they believe Gu Kailai and Neil Heywood’s relationship went beyond mere friendship.
Wang Kang, a Chongqing academic with contacts linked to Bo Xilai, said there was a “definite” romantic relationship between Gu Kailai and Neil Heywood, which began when Gu came under pressure from Bo to set aside her legal career to make way for his political ambitions.
“Of course they liked to look like a perfect family but there were no true feelings between them,” Wang Kang said.
“That is when the unfortunate British man appeared and she fell deeply into a relationship with him.”
Wang Kang added that Neil Heywood was the one that broke off the relationship and agreed with suggestions that Gu Kailai had become increasingly paranoid and erratic in recent years, which he said was due to her “marrying the political monster Bo Xilai.”
The other source, who refused to be named, claimed he was “linked” to the property at which Gu Kailai and her son stayed when they first arrived in the UK in 2001, and had seen Gu and Neil Heywood acting like “an item.” Documents showed that between March 2001 and January 2002, Gu Kailai and her son had stayed at the top floor of Keystone House apartment in Bournemouth, a seaside town in southwest England. Bo Xilai did not accompany them as he remained in China to focus on his political career.
According to the source, Neil Heywood was a regular visitor at the apartment and had been seen leaving with Bo Guagua in the mornings. While Neil Heywood was only one of three English businessmen who frequented the apartment, he was the only one assumed by the source to have been intimate with Gu Kailai.
“Body language,” the source explained.
“When a man pinches a lady on the backside, as they’re going up the stairs…over-friendly.”
Regardless of whether the allegations of an affair are true, it does appear that Gu Kailai and Neil Heywood’s relationship had clearly soured prior to the Briton’s death.
In an April 18 article published in the UK’s Guardian, an unnamed source claimed that Neil Heywood had privately confessed to her that he thought Gu Kailai was “mentally unstable” and was behaving “like an old-fashioned Chinese aristocrat or empress.”
The source, who described herself as a friend, said she bumped into Neil Heywood at a networking event and met with him every few weeks between 2008 and 2011. She said Neil Heywood had painted Bo Xilai and Gu Kailai as a dysfunctional couple, and added that she would be “surprised” if Gu and Heywood were having an affair because he “wasn’t at all complimentary about her.”
The source also corroborated earlier claims that Gu Kailai was convinced that someone in her inner circle had betrayed her and had demanded Neil Heywood divorce his wife and pledge allegiance to her. However, the source could not confirm rumors that Neil Heywood may have been killed after threatening to expose Gu Kailai’s plan to move millions of potentially dirty money abroad, saying that he had always been “very cagey” about exactly what he was doing for the Bo family.
While there has been speculation that Gu Kailai may have taken the fall over Neil Heywood’s murder in order to protect her husband, Chinese-language magazine Yazhou Zhoukan has reported that sources claiming to know Gu Kailai personally have said they are not surprised by her arrest.
The magazine painted Gu Kailai as a strong personality who was so stubborn that even her husband usually had to yield to her. Sources told the magazine that Bo Xilai had hastily left a session of the National People’s Congress on March 9 because he had received a phone call from his wife, who urged him to defend her and their son from the corruption claims that were about to be unveiled.
This is why, the sources claimed, Bo Xilai had staunchly defended his family when the allegations were first made public.
“A few people have been pouring filth on Chongqing and me and my family,” Bo Xilai said at the time, adding that Gu Kailai had given up her career for him and that he was “touched by her sacrifice.”
There have also been reports that two days after Neil Heywood’s death, Gu Kailai met with Neil Heywood’s widow Wang Lulu at a Chongqing coffee shop, where she tearfully pleaded with Wang to accept the official explanation of “excessive alcohol consumption” and not order an autopsy on her dead husband. Wang Lulu allegedly accepted the request and Heywood’s body was cremated a day later.
While the world waits for the official results of the investigation into Neil Heywood’s murder, the Chinese government has been keen to shoot down rumors that the Briton’s death is being used as an excuse to bring down the flamboyant and highly popular BoXilai to ensure a smooth leadership transition from Hu Jintao to Xi Jinping at the party’s upcoming 18th National Congress.
In an article published by state-run press agency Xinhua on April 17, the government emphasized that the Bo Xilai affair is an “individual incident” that “will not impede China’s development.”
The Heywood investigation is being “handled according to Party regulations and discipline, reflecting the Party’s resolution to strictly govern itself,” the article said, before adding: “It does not indicate a political struggle within the Party.”
Gu Kailai, wife of former high-flying Chinese politician Bo Xilai, has gone on trial charged with murdering British businessman Neil Heywood.
Gu Kailai is accused of poisoning Neil Heywood in 2011 in Chongqing, where her husband was the Communist party head.
State media has called the case against her and an aide “substantial”.
The country is preparing to install a new generation of leaders, and Bo Xilai had once been seen as a strong contender for one of the top jobs.
Bo Xilai was sacked in March and is currently under investigation for unspecified “disciplinary violations”.
Some Chinese leaders are said to welcome the demise of such an openly ambitious colleague, but the case still needs careful handling for fear it might taint the Communist Party itself.
Gu Kailai, wife of former high-flying Chinese politician Bo Xilai, has gone on trial charged with murdering British businessman Neil Heywood
Gu Kailai, 53, who is a well-known lawyer, is being tried in the city of Hefei.
Dozens of uniformed and plain-clothes police were stationed around the court building, at which a convoy of black cars was seen arriving on Thursday morning.
British diplomats are being allowed to witness the trial but journalists will not be attending. Gu Kailai is being represented by state-appointed lawyers.
Neil Heywood’s body was found at a hotel in Chongqing in November 2011, and the death was recorded as a heart attack at the time.
But four months later Bo Xilai’s right-hand man, police chief Wang Lijun, fled to a US consulate to allege murder and a massive cover-up.
Gu Kailai and her aide Zhang Xiaojun are now accused of killing Neil Heywood, who is said to have been a business associate.
State media said Gu Kailai and her son Bo Guagua fell out with Neil Heywood over “economic interests” and that she was worried about “Neil Heywood’s threat to her son’s personal security”.
“The facts of the two defendants’ crime are clear, and the evidence is irrefutable and substantial,” a Xinhua news agency report said.
Gu Kailai and her husband have not been seen in public since April, when the investigation was announced.
Bo Guagua, 24, is believed to be in the US after graduating from Harvard University.
“As I was cited as a motivating factor for the crimes accused of my mother, I have already submitted my witness statement,” he wrote in an email to US broadcaster CNN on Wednesday.
“I hope that my mother will have the opportunity to review them,” he wrote.
“I have faith that facts will speak for themselves.”
Discussion of the case has been very limited in Chinese media. In the week leading up to the trial, no reports have been observed in state press.
Comment also appears to be tightly controlled on the internet, with an increasing number of keywords related to the case apparently blocked.
“I have noticed that in China’s weibo (Twitter-like microblogging sites) and the internet, there are people expressing the view that she should be given a fair trial,” said Lijia Zhang, a Beijing-based writer and journalist.
“I have to tell you that she’s not a very popular figure here. But some people do believe she’s the victim of a political struggle among the very top leaders.”
Seven members of the politburo Standing Committee are due to retire later this year. Bo Xilai, now sacked from his official positions, had been tipped for the top until his fall from grace.
Bo Zhiyue, of the National University of Singapore, said China’s leaders were keen to make the focus of the case criminal, rather than political.
”Bo Xilai is a controversial figure. The central leadership may be divided over how to handle Bo Xilai. I think they have some consensus over how to deal with Gu Kailai,” he said.
He added that there were signs she would be treated with a degree of leniency, pointing to the suggestion in state media that Ms Gu was in some way trying to protect her son.
Jin Xiaopeng, a Beijing-based lawyer, said he believed that “due to Ms Gu’s special status, the most she will get is a suspended death sentence”.
It is not known whether Bo Xilai or Wang Lijun will appear at the trial.
Bo Xilai scandal:
• 6 February: Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun flees to the US consulate in Chengdu
• 15 March: Bo Xilai is removed from his post in Chongqing
• 20 March: Rumors suggest Bo Xilai could be linked to the death of British businessman Neil Heywood
• 10 April: Bo Xilai is suspended from party posts and his wife, Gu Kailai, is investigated over Neil Heywood’s death
• 26 July: Gu Kailai and Bo family employee Zhang Xiaojun are charged with killing Neil Heywood
Gu Kailai, wife of controversial Chinese politician Bo Xilai, will go on trial for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood next Thursday.
Prosecutors announced last week that Gu Kailai and Zhang Xiaojun, employed at Bo Xilai’s home, had been charged with intentional homicide.
Neil Heywood was found dead in a hotel in Chongqing on 15 November 2011.
The alleged murder of Neil Heywood triggered Bo Xilai’s downfall in a scandal that has rocked Chinese politics.
The trial is expected to take place in the eastern city of Hefei, even though the crime allegedly took place hundreds of miles to the west in the city of Chongqing.
Gu Kailai, wife of controversial Chinese politician Bo Xilai, will go on trial for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood next Thursday
Legal experts have previously said that authorities would have had concerns about the political influence Bo Xilai and his family may still exert in Chongqing and whether that would affect a fair trial.
Local officials initially said Neil Heywood died of excessive drinking, but the government announced in April it was investigating Bo Xilai’s wife in connection with the case.
The exact nature of Neil Heywood’s role and his relations with Bo Xilai’s family have been the subject of much speculation inside and outside China. At the very least, there were close business contacts between the Bo family and Neil Heywood.
Bo Xilai, the former high-flying leader of the south-western Chinese megacity of Chongqing, was sacked in March and is under investigation for allegedly flouting Communist Party rules.
He made his name tackling corruption in Chongqing and had been expected to be elected to an important position during the once-in-a-decade leadership change due at the Communist Party congress this autumn.
Analysts say the authorities are keen to resolve the case quickly before China undergoes that politically sensitive transition.
Gu Kailai, the wife of disgraced Chinese political leader Bo Xilai, has been charged with murder, state news agency Xinhua has reported.
Gu Kailai and Zhang Xiaojun, employed at Bo Xilai’s home, were “recently” prosecuted by a Chinese court, Xinhua said, without giving further details.
She has been questioned over the suspected murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.
Gu Kailai, the wife of disgraced Chinese political leader Bo Xilai, has been charged with murder
Neil Heywood was found dead in a hotel in Chongqing on 15 November 2011.
Local officials initially said he died of excessive drinking, but the government announced in April it was investigating Bo Xilai’s wife in connection with the case.
The two are accused of poisoning Neil Heywood, Chinese media report.
Bo Xilai, the former high-flying leader of the south-western Chinese mega-city of Chongqing, was sacked in March and is under investigation for allegedly flouting Communist Party rules.
Bo Xilai’s downfall was triggered when his police chief, Wang Lijun, fled to the US consulate, reportedly to seek asylum after falling out with Bo over his investigation into the death of Neil Heywood.