GU KAILAI (BO XILAI'S WIFE), THE NEIL HEYWOOD MURDER AND GU KAILAI’S TRIAL

GU KAILAI: BO XILAI'S WIFE

Bo Xilai and Gu Kailai met in the early 1980s and were married in 1986, news reports have said. Bo, who was divorced at the time, had a son from his first marriage. Bo, Gu and Guagua, the couple's only child, were unusual in seeking the spotlight. Her much-photographed short, chic haircut contrasted with the frumpy look favored by most top leaders' wives. When Bo governed the port city Dalian in the 1990s, Gu ran a law firm and consultancy. Journalist Jiang Weiping, later imprisoned for documenting corruption in Bo's circle, claims her firms channeled bribes from Taiwanese and foreign investors. She went by the English name "Horus," referring to the falcon-headed Egyptian god of war, and depicted herself as a fearless attorney in her book, "Uphold Justice in America". [Source: Benjamin Kang Lim and Lucy Hornby, Reuters, August 6, 2012]

“The daughter of a revolutionary luminary, Gu, Kailai was among the first generation of lawyers educated after the Cultural Revolution, the decade of social chaos during which schools were closed, “ the New York Times reported. “Gu’s family pedigree includes a father who helped lead Communist resistance to the Japanese in the 1930s and 1940s. Married to Bo Xilai, she reveled in her brash, ambitious ways...Admirers bragged that Ms. Gu, a pioneering lawyer who spoke fluent English, was China’s answer to Jacqueline Onassis. In a nation that prefers the wives of political leaders to be bland adornments, Gu Kailai was positively fluorescent. As her husband rose through the party hierarchy, she ran successful law practice and wrote a book on the foibles of American courts “ and what she described as the ruthless efficiency of China’s legal system. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, July 26, August 20, 2012; Michael Wines, New York Times, May 6, 2012]

Gu, Kailai was born in 1959. “Like her husband, and like many “princelings,” she experienced her share of hardship during the Cultural Revolution. Forced to fend for herself after her family was imprisoned, she worked for a time as a butcher and a bricklayer, according to accounts in the state news media. In the late 1970s, though, she was among the first batch of students to be admitted to college after the death of Mao. [Ibid]

According to the New York Times: Gu Kailai rose to prominence as a lawyer by handling several high-profile cases, and is believed to have been the first Chinese lawyer to win a civil case in the U.S. She also wrote several popular books, including "Winning a Case in the United States." Mr. Bo told a news conference during the annual meeting of parliament this month—his last public appearance—that his wife had given up her legal career two decades ago so that it wouldn't appear that she profited from his position. "She now basically just stays at home, doing some housework for me. I'm really touched by her sacrifice," he said.

“Courage is more important than wisdom,” she once wrote in a book that detailed her successful pursuit of a case in an American court that yielded a $1 million settlement. The book was something of a sensation and led to the creation of a popular television show whose protagonist “ a comely, quick-witted legal crusader “ was based on Ms. Gu. Her legal practice first in Dalian then Chongqing—where Bo Xilai was the Communist Party chief—flourished, thanks in part to the connections of her husband, who later became commerce minister. “They were like royalty in Dalian,” said Edward O. Byrne, an American lawyer who helped Ms. Gu file her 1997 lawsuit in the United States and later spent time with the couple in China. “The people who worked for them would refer to them as the Kennedys of China.” [Ibid]

“By most accounts, Ms. Gu was fiercely devoted to Bo Guagua, her only child. In 1998, she accompanied him to Britain, where he attended a private preparatory school, and later, the elite Harrow School, which was Mr. Heywood’s alma mater. Ms. Gu spent at least two years in Britain, where she went by the name Horus, the Egyptian god of war. Some of those who knew her during her time in the seaside resort town of Bournemouth recalled her as a mysterious businesswoman enamored with fine hotels and jewelry. But others described her as unpretentious. Richard Starley, the landlord of her apartment in Bournemouth, said she used to practice her English with him over coffee. ‘she was the most gracious, nice lady you could meet,” he said. “I don’t think she could hurt a fly.” [Ibid]

Gu Kailai Fades from the Scene as Bo Xilai Becomes More Famous

Benjamin Kang Lim and Lucy Hornby of Reuters wrote: “Despite enjoying great privilege, Gu lost her professional identity as her husband's political career flourished. In China, most wives of high-ranking cadres fade discreetly into the background and many high-ranking women are unmarried. Bo's rising political star forced her to stop working to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest, but the decision appeared to have taken a toll on her. [Source: Benjamin Kang Lim and Lucy Hornby, Reuters, August 6, 2012]

"Ever since she stepped down, she lives like a hermit and doesn't attend any social events. When Dad wants her to come to events, she won't," Bo Guagua said in a 2009 interview with the Chengdu Evening News, later expunged from its website. "I can understand, she is most unwilling to exist in Dad's shadow, and lose herself. Right now she reads all day and studies comparative literature."

For a time, Gu channeled her considerable energy into her son's education, tapping Heywood to help get him into school and moving with the boy to Britain. On her orders, Heywood pulled strings with British expats in Beijing to help get the youngster into Oxford, said one woman who met him then. While in Britain, Gu attempted to go into business, selling promotional hot air balloons to Dalian and other Chinese cities. Heywood assisted with the arrangements. She registered a company in the south of England with French architect Patrick Devillers, who left Dalian and divorced his Chinese wife around the same time. He is now in Beijing, after having been detained by Cambodian police on China's request, and is cooperating with the investigation. [Ibid]

Gu Kailai Become More Mentally Unhinged

Benjamin Kang Lim and Lucy Hornby of Reuters wrote: “Bo and Gu both came from pedigreed revolutionary families, with connections that brought power and wealth. Elite Chinese live in a world of infighting and suspicion, enduring repeated corruption probes, phone tapping and worries about betrayal. Gu's increasing paranoia after she returned to China could have intensified in the febrile atmosphere in Chongqing, where the couple moved in 2007. Bo launched a bloody "strike black" anti-mafia campaign against alleged gangsters, featuring lurid tales of murder and corruption. [Source: Benjamin Kang Lim and Lucy Hornby, Reuters, August 6, 2012]

Bo promoted choral songs from the Cultural Revolution, a dog-eat-dog period of political chaos in which his own mother died in the custody of fanatical Red Guards. For Gu, the songs would have revived memories of a time when her parents were purged and she and her sisters were left to fend for themselves. Her behavior became particularly unstable around the time of Heywood's death in November last year. She strode into a meeting of police officials wearing the uniform of a major-general - the same rank as her father. In a rambling speech she told the startled audience that she was on a mission to protect Wang. Less than three months later, he accused her of murder. [Ibid]

Bo Xilai’s Ex-wife Tells of Bo Family Paranoia

Edward Wong and David Barboza wrote in the New York Times: “Just months before his fall from power, Bo Xilai asked the brother of his first wife to meet him at a government compound in the southwest metropolis of Chongqing. Mr. Bo pointed to a stack of papers and said he had forensic reports that proved the existence of a continuing plot to poison his second wife, Gu Kailai. Then he asked the other man to step into the yard and turn off his cellphone. The person suspected of masterminding the scheme, Mr. Bo said, was his son from his first marriage, Li Wangzhi, also known as Brendan Li, a graduate of Columbia University who was working in finance in Beijing. “Could this be true?” Mr. Bo asked. When the brother-in-law insisted the fears were outlandish, Mr. Bo seemed relieved. [Source: Edward Wong and David Barboza, New York Times, October 6, 2012]

The story, recounted in two recent interviews with Mr. Bo’s estranged first wife, Li Danyu, 62, deepens the Shakespearean dimension of a scandal that has gripped this nation and disrupted the party’s once-a-decade leadership transition. In the interviews, the first she has given to a news organization, Ms. Li spoke in detail about her marriage to Mr. Bo, giving a rare glimpse into the early life and thoughts of the son of a revolutionary leader and someone whom Ms. Li described as an idealist enamored of communism. “We believed we needed to save the rest of the world from the hell of capitalism,” she said.

Ms. Li said that although there has been a long history of enmity between her and Ms. Gu, her son never conspired to murder Ms. Gu. Another family member confirmed that Ms. Li’s brother had met with Mr. Bo and had been told of the alleged plot. He also insisted the son was innocent. The son and his uncle both declined to comment. Mr. Bo and Ms. Gu are under detention. [Ibid]

Although she has no proof, Ms. Li said she suspected Ms. Gu was the one who first blamed her son for the perceived murder plot, and the so-called forensic evidence might have been provided by Wang Lijun, the former police chief convicted of helping cover up Mr. Heywood’s murder. Ms. Li said she feared Ms. Gu wanted to have her first son arrested or harmed. ‘she can be that paranoid,” Ms. Li said. As for Mr. Bo, she said, he was “good in nature and didn’t want to believe this evidence.”

The web of entanglements among the families reflects the insular nature of China’s “red nobility.” Ms. Li’s older brother, Li Xiaoxue, is married to Ms. Gu’s older sister, the daughter of an army general. It was this brother who met last October, weeks before Mr. Heywood’s death, with Mr. Bo in Chongqing. Li Xiaolin, a lawyer associated with Ms. Gu and no relation to Mr. Bo’s ex-wife, said in a telephone interview that Ms. Gu and her family members believed she had been poisoned years earlier with a heavy metal substance. He said that he did not know whom she blamed for the poisoning. Mr. Li said that Ms. Gu’s shaking hands, evident at the trial in August, were a result of the poisoning. Ms. Gu had even taken up knitting on her doctor’s advice to try to regain control of her hand muscles, he said. [Ibid]

Several people close to Mr. Bo’s family said they had heard Ms. Gu was poisoned at one time, and that there was extreme paranoia within the household in recent years. But three family friends who spoke on the condition of anonymity said they did not believe Ms. Gu was fabricating evidence about Ms. Li’s son. They said Ms. Li had long resented Ms. Gu and waged private attacks against Mr. Bo and Ms. Gu to discredit them. [Ibid]

Neil Heywood and His Mysterious Death

On November 15, 2011 the body of Neil Heywood, a Briton who had connections with Gu Kailai, Bo Xilai and their son Bo Guagua was found in a villa at the Nanshan Lijing Resort on the outskirts of Chongqing. Local authorities swiftly declared that he died of "excessive alcohol consumption," and cremated the body without an autopsy. Afterwards friends raised suspicions with the British embassy, pointing out that Heywood was a teetotaler. [Ibid]

“The Wall Street Journal reported: “Mr. Heywood appeared to be working as an independent businessman and consultant, according to friends and acquaintances. He told several of them that he had close ties to the Bo family and could help to arrange meetings and business deals there. Several said he was connected to the Bo family through his Chinese wife, who was from the northeastern city of Dalian, where Mr. Bo was mayor from 1993 until 2001. He also worked as a nonexecutive director of Beijing Martin, a local dealer for Aston Martin, the Britain-based automobile company. Aston Martin confirms that but said he wasn't directly employed by Aston Martin and hadn't been working for them in any way in Chongqing. [Source: Jeremy Page, Wall Street Journal, March 27, 2012]

“According to Wikipedia: Neil Heywood (20 October 1970 “ 14 November 2011) was a British businessman who worked in China. Born in 1970, he attended the English public school Harrow between 1984 and 1988.[1] He graduated in international relations from the University of Warwick. He spent more than a decade in China, and was a Chinese speaker. He was married to Wang Lulu, a Chinese national from Dalian, and had two children, 11-year-old Olivia and seven-year-old Peter, who both attend the Beijing branch of Dulwich College. They lived in a private, tree-lined compound occupied by expensive villas on the outskirts of Beijing . Mr Heywood drove an S-type Jaguar, with a Union Jack bumper sticker. Heywood was not a heavy drinker, but was a chain smoker. His father, Peter, died of a heart attack after drinks over dinner at his London home in 2004 at age 63, according to family members. [Ibid]

“Heywood served as an intermediary linking western companies to powerful figures in the Chinese political structure. He ran a company named Heywood Boddington Associates, registered at his mother’s house in London. It claims to be “a multi-discipline consultancy focusing on serving the interests of UK businesses in the People’s Republic of China". [Ibid]

“Heywood developed a business relationship with Gu Kailai, a lawyer, businesswoman, and the wife of Bo Xilai. Heywood appears to have played the role of a Bai Shoutao or white glove for the Bo family, doing business on their behalf, since, as a prominent party family, they could not sully their hands with financial dealings. Businessmen have complained that any foreign company wishing to work in Chongqing had to appoint Gu Kailai's law firm to act on its behalf, failing which it could not get required permissions and licenses. The law firm, Kailai Law (now Beijing Ang-dao Law), is said to have charged exorbitant fees. [Ibid]

“Heywood had clients including Beijing Aston Martin dealerships and Rolls-Royce. He was hired occasionally by Hakluyt & Company, a consultancy firm co-founded by a former officer in Britain's MI6 intelligence service. Rumours that Heywood might have been employed as an agent by British intelligence have been denied by Foreign Secretary William Hague (an unusual move, as the British government typically refuses to comment on the identity of its agents). [Ibid]

Gu Kailai Suspected of Murder

In mid April 2012, around the time that Bo was suspended from his party posts in the Politburo, his wife, Gu Kailai, was accused of ordering Heywood’s murder. Gu and an employee from the family home, Zhang Xiaojun, were taken into custody on suspicion of his murder. Gu Kailai was detained because she was "highly suspected" of killing Heywood following a row over an unspecified financial conflict, according to official reports. [Ibid]

“Xinhua reported: “Police set up a team to reinvestigate the case of the British national Neil Heywood who was found dead in Chongqing," the news agency said. Xinhua said evidence indicated Heywood's death was a homicide and Gu Kailai and Zhang Xiaojun, an assistant in Bo's household, were "highly suspected." It cited a dispute over unspecified "economic interests" between Gu and Heywood that "constantly intensified". Gu and Zhang had been "handed over to the judicial authorities", it said - meaning they have been detained. [Ibid]

“This is so dramatic, so extraordinary," said Li Zhuang, a Beijing lawyer who was once jailed in Chongqing for challenging Bo's campaign against organised crime. "If, and I stress if, there are real proven links to Heywood's death, then we can imagine that Gu and Bo Xilai will find out that, as Chinese television has said about this, nobody is above the law." "In Chongqing, everybody is up and discussing this and waiting for more news," Zhang told Reuters late in the evening. "The ordinary residents are staggered. Many didn't think the rumours could be true. They want to know what the hell has been going on." Any criminal investigation of Bo would only begin after the party's disciplinary agency investigated him and decided whether to turn his case over to police and prosecutors, said Li. [Ibid]

Heywood Killed after Threat to Expose Bo Xilai’s Wife

In mid April 2012, Reuters reported: “Heywood was poisoned after he threatened to expose a plan by a Chinese leader's wife to move money abroad, two sources with knowledge of the police investigation said. Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, asked Heywood in late 2011 to move a large sum of money abroad, and she became outraged when he demanded a larger cut of the money than she had expected due to the size of the transaction, the sources said. She accused him of being greedy and hatched a plan to kill him after he said he could expose her dealings, one of the sources said. [Source: Chris Buckley, Reuters, April 16, 2012]

“Police suspect Heywood took a poisoned drink, according to one of the sources, and died on November 15. Both sources said Gu was not present at the scene. The sources said Heywood had stayed at the Nanshan Lijing Holiday Hotel, a secluded complex of rooms and villas in green hills overlooking Chongqing that Gu Kailai had visited in the past. Staff there said they had no knowledge of the death of a British man at the hotel, which is also marketed as the Lucky Holiday Hotel, in November. [Ibid]

“Heywood had spent his last week in Chongqing in Nan'an district, an area politically loyal to Bo, and stayed at two hotels: the Nanshan Lijing Holiday Hotel and the Sheraton hotel. Staff at each hotel said they knew nothing of a British man dying there. A guard was barring access to an apparently empty row of villas within the grounds of the Nanshan Lijing Holiday Hotel, saying a meeting was going on. [Ibid]

“The sources did not know details of the offshore transactions that Heywood facilitated for Gu, but said exposure of the deals would have imperiled her and her ambitious husband, who was campaigning for promotion to the top ranks of China's leadership. "After Gu Kailai found that Heywood wouldn't agree to go along and was even resisting with threats - that he could expose this money with unknown provenance - then that was a major risk to Gu Kailai and Bo Xilai," said the first source. The Guardian reported, “Friends of Heywood have questioned his involvement in such activities and point out that he was not a wealthy man  as one might have expected if he was handling billions of dollars. [Ibid]

Gu Kailai and the Heywood Murder

Gillian Wong of Associated Press wrote: “In November 2011, Gu lured Heywood to a secluded hilltop retreat in Chongqing where she got him drunk and then, with an aide's help, poured cyanide into his mouth. Then she turned to Wang, who sent police officers to remove evidence, including hotel surveillance videos. "It's all gone up in smoke, flown on a crane to paradise," the police chief told Gu after Heywood was declared dead by excessive drinking and his body was cremated. Unknown to Gu, Wang had recorded a phone conversation in which she'd confessed to the crime. He also had secretly saved samples from Heywood's heart and other evidence. Left out of the official account was a surprising twist that was exposed in court testimony: The police chief had helped Gu plot the murder from the start, but backed away from its execution." [Source: Gillian Wong, Associated Press, August 20, 2013]

Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times: “According to the official Xinhua news agency, the murder plot was hatched after Mr. Heywood threatened Ms. Gu’s son, Bo Guagua, and demanded the return of $22 million he claimed was owed to him after a real estate venture failed. After Mr. Heywood’s threats were revealed, reportedly in an e-mail he sent to the family, Ms. Gu devised a scheme to kill him with animal poison procured from a public market, according to an account of the trial issued by Xinhua. In November, Mr. Heywood, 41, was lured to a hotel room in Chongqing, where Ms. Gu plied him with whiskey and tea. [Source: Andrew Jabobs, New York Times, August 20, 2012]

When he became drunk and began to vomit, Mr. Zhang, the family employee, helped him into bed, prosecutors said. Ms. Gu then took the deadly concoction that Mr. Zhang had been carrying and dripped it into Mr. Heywood’s mouth after he asked for water. She then scattered pills around the room to make it appear that Mr. Heywood had died of a drug overdose. Two days later, workers at the Lucky Holiday Hotel discovered Mr. Heywood’s body; the police quickly ruled his death the result of excessive drinking and cremated his remains. [Ibid]

U.K. Seeks Probe Into Heywood’s Death

The British government said it asked Chinese officials in mid-February to open an inquiry into Heywood’s death after American officials had informed them of the accusations by Wang Lijun, the former police chief. Jeremy Page wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “The U.K. has asked the Chinese government to launch an investigation into the death of Heywood after Wang Lijun, the former police chief who triggered the Bo Xilai political drama, claimed to have fallen out with Mr. Bo after discussing his belief with his boss that Mr. Heywood was poisoned. Wang also claimed that Gu Kailai, was involved in a business dispute with Mr. Heywood. according to one of those people. [Source: Jeremy Page, Wall Street Journal, March 27, 2012]

“In response to questions on why the British government didn’t act sooner, a spokesman for the British Embassy in China said Mr. Heywood's family hadn't complained about how Chongqing authorities handled his death, and hadn't asked British officials to publicize or pursue the case further back in November. "At the time we weren't aware of anything that called into question the coroner's report," the spokesman said. "There was no reason then to think there was anything suspicious about the death.” [Ibid]

“In mid April the Chinese government said it would conduct an investigation into the Heywood murder. British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he welcomed China's announcement of an investigation into Heywood's death. The British government said Heywood was once "on good terms" with Gu and Bo Guagua, the couple's son who went to the British private school Harrow, where Heywood also studied. [Source: Tania Branigan, The Guardian, April 18, 2012]

A spokesman for the British Embassy in China said that, as far as he knew, Mr. Heywood hadn't been working for the British government in the recent past. In response to allegations that Heywood was a spy, the British Foreign Affairs office said that it usually did not respond to speculative reports but because of the media attention in this case it felt compelled to state “Heywood was not an employee of the British government in any capacity” and that his contacts with the British embassy were “minimal and usually in connection with his business. “

Heywood Said Gu Kailai was “Mentally Unstable”

Gu Kailai has long been known for her own zealous ambition. In April 2012, The Guardian reported: “Heywood privately confessed to friends that Gu Kailai  the woman now suspected of murdering him  was "mentally unstable" and behaved like an unforgiving "empress". In conversations in the three years before his death, Heywood admitted that Gu's behaviour had grown increasingly erratic. He told one friend that Gu  wife of the leading Chinese politician Bo Xilai  was comporting herself "like an old-fashioned Chinese aristocrat or empress". [Source: Tania Branigan, The Guardian, April 18, 2012]

The friend was unconvinced by claims that the businessman and Gu were having an affair, and that this may have led to his murder. "I would be very surprised. He wasn't at all complimentary about her. He said she was mentally unstable and a force to be reckoned with. It didn't sound to me like the words of a man who was enamoured," the source told the Guardian. The friend met regularly with Heywood between 2008-2011, after bumping into him at a networking event. Typically she would see him every six weeks in Beijing, she said, bringing him Jaffa cakes from Britain at his request. [Ibid]

“The friend recounted: "Neil told me that Gu had demanded that the inner circle divorce their wives and pledge loyalty to her alone. She thought that someone in her inner circle was betraying her. He said for Gu loyalty to the family was more important than anything else. He told me she was behaving like an old-fashioned Chinese aristocrat or empress." The friend remarked: "I assumed Neil was involved in funnelling finances for them overseas. The family had far more money at their disposal than a Communist party salary.” [Ibid]

Neil Heywood and His Links to Bo Xilai’s and Gu Kailai’s Inner Circle

Reuters reported: ‘sources said Gu and Heywood, who had lived in China since the early 1990s, shared a long and close personal relationship, but were not romantically involved. Heywood's falling-out with Gu followed a period in which she had grown distant from her ambitious, perpetually busy husband and she had turned to Heywood as a soulmate, sources said. "Bo and Gu Kailai had not been a proper husband and wife for years ... Gu Kailai and Heywood had a deep personal relationship and she took the break between them deeply to heart," said Wang Kang, a well-connected Chongqing businessman who has learned some details of the case from Chinese officials. "Her mentality was 'you betrayed me, and so I'll get my revenge'," Wang said. [Source: Chris Buckley, Reuters, April 16, 2012]

“Heywood got to know the powerful family when Bo Xilai was mayor of Dalian in the 1990s. Heywood helped with getting the couple's son, Bo Guagua, into an exclusive British school, Harrow, said one of the sources with police contacts. The sources said there had been no sign of any dispute between Gu and Heywood until October and November when the argument over funds began. The lack of a paper trail made it difficult for police to determine how much money was involved, they added. [Ibid]

“Heywood’s friend told The Guardian that Heywood “painted a frank and dysfunctional portrait of Gu Kailai and her ambitious husband. They presided over a small, exclusive group called the "inner circle". This group was mainly Chinese, but it included two foreigners  Heywood, an old Harrovian, and a French architect [Patrick Henri Devillers]. [Source: Tania Branigan, The Guardian, April 18, 2012]

Heywood came to know Bo Xilai in the 1990s when he was mayor of the north-eastern city of Dalian. But by 2008 he had "fallen out" with the powerful couple, the friend said, and relations had dramatically cooled. Heywood never explained the reasons. Despite this semi-estrangement Heywood travelled to Chongqing a week before his death. She added that Heywood had always been "very cagey" about what his exact role was with the Bos. But, according to Mr. Heywood’s friends, he was instrumental in helping the boy gain admission to Harrow, which charges annual tuition equivalent to $55,000. [Ibid]

“Of Heywood, the source told The Guardian: "He was very bonhomous. Very English. He had an English prep school air about him." The source said Heywood "looked older than he was"  he was 41 when he died  and confirmed what others have suggested: that there was a Walter Mitty aspect to his personality. The friend said he was fascinated by James Bond films, and drove a Jaguar around downtown Beijing with the number plate "007"  unlikely behaviour if he were a spy, as some have suggested. He also appeared to know every word of The Rock, she added, the Hollywood action thriller starring Sean Connery as an ex-MI6 agent. [Ibid]

“The friend said that when she last saw Heywood the summer before his death, adding that he did not seem unduly worried. Rather, like other long-term British expatriates, Heywood seem to believe that he led a "charmed life" and that he was immune from the legal problems and other difficulties that might affect the locals. "He didn't seem to be too worried about the situation. He talked about falling out with the Bos. He mentioned coming back to the UK in the summer [2012] but only because his daughter needed to start secondary school." Heywood often talked about his Chinese wife Lulu and their two children. "He was very fond of her," the source said. [Ibid]

‘she also backed up the claim that death from excessive drinking was implausible. "He wasn't teetotal but he drank sparingly. He usually drank diet coke," the friend said. "He would have one or two glasses of wine at most." The friend added that she had some sympathy with British diplomats in China who have been criticised for only raising the alarm two months after his death: "Neil's father died of a heart attack in his 60s, and the family were telling for some time he died of a heart attack.” [Ibid]

Evidence Against Bo Xilai’s Wife

Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times: “There have been various stories about the evidence that Mr. Wang had gathered linking Ms. Gu to the death of Mr.Heywood...Some police officers have told friends in Chongqing that Ms. Gu was recorded on a security camera leaving the villa the night of Mr. Heywood’s death, said a person with police contacts in Chongqing. [Source: Edward Wong, New York Times, June 7, 2012]

Further speculation over the evidence has arisen after comments by Henry C. Lee, a prominent American forensic scientist who had met Mr. Wang at conferences in Asia. Mr. Lee said in an interview that he received a telephone call sometime in February from a Chongqing police detective asking whether Mr. Lee’s laboratory in Connecticut could analyze a blood sample from a person who had died after drinking. [Ibid]

“Mr. Lee said the request was not unusual because his laboratory gets many calls from foreign police departments, including ones in China. “I said “O.K., send the sample,”“ he said. “If it’s a routine pathological analysis, we can help them. If it’s something beyond my expertise, I can introduce them to someone.” Mr. Lee said he was never told whom the blood sample was from, and that he never received it. [Ibid]

“No details of the motive or the crime itself have been publicly released, other than a general comment from Chinese state media that he was killed after a financial dispute. Xinhua said that the economic dispute between Gu and Heywood involved her son. [Source: Michael Martina and Chris Buckley, Reuters, July 26, 2012]

Gu Kailai "Has Confessed"

In June 2012, Tania Branigan wrote in The Guardian: “Investigators have said that the wife of the disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai has confessed to killing the British businessman Neil Heywood, according to the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun. The Asahi Shimbun said officials who had read an interim investigation report had told it of Gu's alleged confession. According to the investigation, Gu was illicitly receiving money and transferred as much as $6 billion to accounts in the names of relatives and friends overseas. It is claimed she admitted killing Heywood to stop him revealing that he had helped her funnel money abroad. [Source: Tania Branigan, The Guardian, June 22, 2012]

According to the Asahi Shimbun, Gu was already under investigation for financial impropriety when Heywood was found dead in a hotel in Chongqing. She said she had felt "driven into a corner" when authorities began investigating her affairs and explained how she had killed Heywood. The timing of the report is striking, coming only days after Cambodian police said China had requested the extradition of Patrick Devillers, a French architect who also had links to Gu and Bo. [Ibid]

Bo Xilai’s French Friend Detained in Beijing

In July 2012, French architect, Patrick Henri Devillers, was taken into custody after he arrived in Beijing from Cambodia in connection with the Heywood murder case. Devillers was arrested in Cambodia at the behest of Beijing. Mr. Devillers, who claims he returned here on his own volition, has told French officials that he is helping in the investigation of Ms. Gu. A spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry said that Mr. Devillers was being “housed” in “proper conditions” and that he was not in prison. “He is well; he’s in great health,” said the spokesman, Bernard Valero. [Ibid]

“Jane Perlez wrote in the New York Times: “An official at the French Embassy in Beijing said French diplomats visited Mr. Devillers “but officials did not specify his whereabouts or say whether he was free to leave China. Mr. Devillers was one of a group of Westerners friendly with Bo Xilai, and his wife, Gu Kailai, as they gained greater political standing in China in the 1990s and early 2000s. Mr. Devillers helped lay out a new street grid for the city of Dalian when Mr. Bo mayor, and he later was a business partner with Mr. Bo’s wife. [Source: Jane Perlez, New York Times, July 23, 2012]

Mr. Devillers’s whereabouts had been a mystery for months, until a reporter for The New York Times found him in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in May. At the time, he said he had no interest in getting involved in the investigation by the Chinese into the Heywood murder. But he then appeared to become the object of a tug of war between France on one side and Cambodia and China on the other. China is Cambodia’s biggest foreign donor, and it enjoys Cambodia’s loyalty in many disputes. On June 13, Mr. Devillers was arrested in Phnom Penh at China’s request. Cambodian officials, aware of protests from France, said at the time that they would not send the architect to China without proof of wrongdoing. He was released at the request of China the Cambodian authorities said, and he boarded a plane for Shanghai the same day. [Ibid]

“Before leaving, he made a video for the Cambodian authorities in which he said that he was leaving for China voluntarily and that he would go to Beijing. It showed Mr. Devillers sitting on a couch and answering questions in French from what appeared to be a Cambodian official holding a microphone. “I reiterate that I’m leaving freely to this destination,” he said. Earlier Reuters quoted the Cambodian foreign minister as saying that Devillers would not be extradited to any country. "The Royal Government of Cambodia has already made decision to keep this French national in Cambodia “ Neither sending to France or China," Hor Namhong said. [Ibid]

Gu Kailai Formally Charged with Murder

In late July 2012, Gu Kailai was officially charged with the intentional homicide of Heywood, the state media reported. Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times: “The official Xinhua news agency published a brief dispatch announcing that Ms. Gu and an aide employed by the family had been formally charged in the poisoning death of Neil Heywood.... The article did not mention Mr. Bo’s full name, suggesting prosecutors have decided not to implicate him in the crime. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, July 26, 2012]

“While repeating earlier accusations that tied the murder to “a conflict over economic interests,” the announcement added two details: it confirmed that Mr. Heywood had been poisoned and it said that Ms. Gu committed the crime to protect her son, Bo Guagua. It was unclear what Bo Guagua might have done to need protection from Mr. Heywood, but the announcement omitted her son’s full name, suggesting that prosecutors have decided not to implicate him in the crime. [Ibid]

Michael Martina and Chris Buckley of Reuters wrote: “Gu and Zhang will face trial in Hefei, a city in eastern China, far from Chongqing. "The facts of the two defendants' crime are clear, and the evidence is irrefutable and substantial," said the Xinhua report summarizing the indictment. "Therefore, the two defendants should be charged with intentional homicide." [Source: Michael Martina and Chris Buckley, Reuters, July 26, 2012]

“As big as this case is, the party congress will now proceed quite smoothly," said Joseph Fewsmith, a professor of Chinese politics at Boston University. "The party has handled this case as one of one person breaking the law. The ideological issues have been pushed to the side, although that doesn't mean they're not there." "Bo's career has been over for a long time," said Fewsmith, the professor of Chinese politics. "I don't think it's a surprise," he said of the indictment of Gu, "because it's pretty clear that they wanted to get the Gu Kailai case out of the way before the party congress." "This just shows that the Party has put the Bo Xilai case behind. It shows the center is on top of this case and the whole Party's priority is the party congress," Wang Zhengxu, senior research fellow at the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies, University of Nottingham, said of Gu's indictment. [Ibid]

Charges Against Gu Kailai Charge Suggests Old Tactic

On Gu being charged in Heywood’s murder, Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times; “The Chinese government, almost certainly intentionally, has placed the larger-than-life Ms. Gu into a familiar Chinese framework: the conniving, bloodthirsty vixen whose hunger for money derailed her husband’s promising career. Although no one has presented any compelling evidence to rebut the official narrative that Ms. Gu, 53, played a role in the death of the businessman, many wonder if party leaders are using her case to deflect public disgust over the kind of corruption and abuse of power that critics say was embodied by her husband. Mr. Bo. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, July 26, 2012]

“Throughout Chinese history, whenever there’s a political struggle, whenever someone has to fall, they blame the wife,” said Hung Huang, the publisher of a fashion magazine whose own mother, Mao Zedong’s former English tutor, spent two years under house arrest after she was accused of collaborating with the Gang of Four. [Ibid]

“Chinese history is sprinkled with tales of cunning women whose outsize ambitions led them “ and sometimes the men in their lives “ to ruination. Jiang Qing, Mao’s wife, took much of the blame for the calamitous decade of the Cultural Revolution, a point driven home in a televised show trial that electrified the nation. And Chinese schoolchildren can readily recite the crimes of Empress Dowager Cixi, who is portrayed as a rapacious, homicidal leader whose machinations helped topple the Qing dynasty. [Ibid]

“Leaving Bo out of the announcement of the charges suggests to some observers that he is not likely to be implicated in the most damning element of the scandal, as prosecutors are viewed as unlikely to hold separate trials related to the same death. Susan L. Shirk, an expert on Chinese politics, said party officials might be reluctant to accuse Mr. Bo of participating in a cover-up of the murder, given his popularity among some ordinary Chinese and with an influential faction of the leadership. “They have to handle this in a way that protects Bo Xilai’s reputation,” said Ms. Shirk, a former State Department official who teaches at the University of California, San Diego. “They don’t want all the dirty laundry of elite politics to be aired because they really don’t know the potential threat posed by Bo’s followers.” [Ibid]

“In fact, the bulk of the guilt seems to be falling on Ms. Gu’s shoulders. The charges referred to her as “Bogu Kailai,” a name that combines her name with that of her husband. Some analysts have suggested that referring to her by a compound name, following an outdated tradition sometimes still used by Chinese who live outside mainland China, hints that she has or had foreign residency, violating the rules governing senior leaders and their families. She also has other strikes against her. News media reports in China and elsewhere often referred to her as a gatekeeper to her husband, reaping substantial financial benefits. She had lived abroad and broke an unwritten rule by inviting foreigners into the family’s inner circle. [Ibid]

Heywood Suspected of Being a Spy

China’s external intelligence agency, the Ministry of State Security, suspected Heywood of being a spy before his murder last year according to people with close ties to Chinese state security. The Wall Street Journal reported that Mr. Heywood had regular meetings with an operative of the British intelligence agency MI6. The newspaper said he was an unpaid informant, providing information on the Bo family’s private affairs. [Source: Jonathan Ansfield and Ian Johnson, New York Times, November 6, 2012]

Jonathan Ansfield and Ian Johnson, New York Times, November 6, 2012] The British government declined to comment on The Journal’s report, with a spokesman referring reporters to a statement made earlier this year that Mr. Heywood was not a government employee “in any capacity.” The Ministry of State Security had suspected Mr. Heywood of being a British spy, the people close to the ministry said, although they did not confirm that he had worked informally for MI6. [Ibid]

A scholar with high-level ties to Mr. Bo and the ministry said Mr. Bo had known of the ministry’s official suspicions before Mr. Heywood’s death, as had other leaders. Separately, a political analyst with high-level party ties said Mr. Heywood was on the ministry’s watch list, possibly for years, as a result of his relationship with the Bo family. “When a minister-level cadre has such relations with a foreigner, they’ll definitely be watched,” the analyst said. [Ibid]

The suspicions may help explain the growing paranoia in the entourage of Mr. Bo’s wife. Mr. Heywood told friends that someone in Mr. Bo’s inner circle had grown suspicious of his ties with Mr. Bo, and Ms. Gu insisted that her friends swear loyalty to her. It is unclear, however, whether Ms. Gu suspected Mr. Heywood of spying on her family. A lawyer for Ms. Gu’s family said it was never mentioned to him that she thought Mr. Heywood was a spy. [Ibid]

Adding to questions about the importance of espionage in the case, friends said Mr. Heywood had become estranged from the powerful family in the year before his death in November 2011. He also openly cultivated the image of an inside operator, driving around Beijing in a sports car with “007" license plates. Mr. Heywood had done work for the private intelligence firm Hakluyt, founded by former officials with MI6, helping prepare due-diligence reports on Chinese companies for investors. That association had given rise to longstanding speculation that he was a spy. [Ibid]

Heywood Family Seeks up to $8.2 Million Compensation in China

In August 2013, on the eve of the Bo Xilai trial, the family of Neil Heywood was seeking compensation of up to $8.2 million from Gu Kalai. Ben Blanchard and Benjamin Kang Lim of Reuters wrote: “A source close to the family said Heywood's Chinese widow, Lulu, had been pushing for compensation for herself and their two young children from Gu. Lulu and the children are believed to be still living in Beijing. [Source: Ben Blanchard and Benjamin Kang Lim, Reuters, August 12, 2013 <<<<]

“Li Xiaolin, a lawyer who has represented Gu's family in the past, said Heywood's family was seeking between 30 million and 50 million yuan ($8.17 million) in compensation. "The talks started last year, but have not reached any agreement yet that I know of," Li told Reuters. "Gu Kailai has no money herself." Money was not being sought from Bo though as he was not mentioned in the verdict for Gu's case, Li said. "Talks are continuing," Li added, saying it was a colleague of his who was involved in the talks. <<<<

“The British Embassy in Beijing said it had passed on the family's concerns about a lack of progress on the compensation request to the Chinese government. "We've made the Chinese authorities, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, aware of the family's concerns on several occasions since the trial, most recently twice during July," said an embassy spokesman, who did not elaborate. <<<<

“Heywood's mother, Ann Heywood, in a statement to the Wall Street Journal, said there had been no progress on seeking compensation. "Given the circumstances of Neil's murder, I have been surprised and disappointed that, despite repeated discreet approaches to the Chinese authorities, there has been no substantive or practical response," she said. She urged China to show "decisiveness and compassion" to ease the effects of his death on the family, especially his two children, the newspaper added. <<<<

“Chinese law stipulates that victims of crime can seek compensation from those convicted of crimes, but does not lay out monetary benchmarks, which are generally decided by the courts depending on ability to pay and the nature of the crime. While assets ordered confiscated by courts can be used for compensation, Gu's verdict - as relayed by official state media - made no mention of asset confiscation. "Compensation should have been decided upon at the time of Gu Kailai's trial, but it appears it was not. This is very strange," said Pu Zhiqiang, a prominent human rights lawyer. "The government can compel the sale of assets to pay compensation," which for murder cases was generally several hundred thousand yuan, he added. <<<<

“Lawyer Li said though that it was not unusual for compensation talks to continue after a verdict is reached. However, for such a sensitive case as this, the upper echelons of ruling Communist Party would have to sign off on a compensation deal, making any court involvement moot. "Decisions about this case have to be made single-handedly by the Communist Party's top leaders. It's not for a court or the government to decide," said He Weifang, a law professor at Peking University who has closely followed Bo's downfall." <<<<

TRIAL OF GU KAILAI

In August 2012 in a trial that lasted just just seven hours, Bo's wife, Gu Kailai chose not to contest the charge of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood. "The accused Bogu (Gu) Kailai and Zhang Xiaojun did not raise objections to the accusations of intentional homicide," an official, Tang Yigan, said after the hearing, referring also to Gu's co-accused, an aide to the family. The trial was described by some as the most sensational trial since the conviction of the Gang of Four in the 1970s.

Gillian Wong of AP wrote: The morning of the trial began with a steady downpour. Security was tight around the courthouse, with roads around it blocked to car travel. Reporters were asked to present their IDs before being allowed to get close to the building, but police lines were pulled across the main entrance and guarded by officers. Other entrances were similarly guarded. Dozens of plainclothes security officers loitered around the streets. Several special police vans were parked around the building. [Source: Gillian Wong, AP, August 8, 2012]

“John Ruwitch of Reuters wrote: ‘state television showed Gu, wearing a dark pant suit and a white shirt, being led into the courtroom and being seated in the dock. She appeared to have put on weight since she was detained earlier this year. The court official quoted prosecutors as saying Gu and Zhang had killed Heywood with a poisoned drink. As a result of the dispute with Heywood, Gu had become convinced Heywood was a threat to her son, Bo Guagua, the official said without elaborating. [Source: John Ruwitch, Reuters, August 9, 2012]

“Gu, herself a career lawyer, was defended by a state-appointed lawyer with meager experience in criminal cases. The two lawyers, Jiang Min and Zhou Yuhao, could not be reached for comment but a search of public information showed the more senior attorney, Jiang is a specialist in financial cases and that neither has any obvious connection to the Bo family. The state decided who was to represent Gu, denying her the use of a family lawyer--- a move that prompted Gu's 90-year-old mother, Fan Chengxiu, to complain to the Justice Ministry, according to a source close to the family. Gu’s trial was declared “public,” although foreign reporters were blocked from attending. Britain's Foreign Office said two British diplomats had attended the trial "to observe the proceedings and fulfill consular responsibilities to the Heywood family", a spokesman said. They were barred from recording the proceedings or taking notes. [Ibid]

Gu Kailai Says Heywood Detained her Son

Reports have varied as to the motives behind the Heywood murder. Gu contended that she had been trying to protect her son. Officials in Gu Kailai’s trial said that Heywood detained her son Bo Guagua in a home in Britain and wrote an e-mail threatening to “destroy” Bo if he did not give millions of pounds to Heywood to make up for a failed business venture. Courtroom observers quoted by the Washington Post said prosecutors alleged Heywood had threatened in an email to "destroy" Guagua, and demanded money from him after a botched commercial property deal - a threat duly conveyed to Gu.

Reuters reported: “Gu’s lawyer told the court that Heywood himself had some "responsibility in the matter", the court official said, adding that a Heywood family representative had voiced respect for the court during the hearing. Gu Kailai believed that Neil Heywood had threatened the personal safety of her son Bo and decided to kill him," the official added. [Source: John Ruwitch, Reuters, August 9, 2012]

“Evan Osnos of The New Yorker wrote: “According to an account publicly posted by courtroom observer Zhao Xiangcha, her son “telephoned his mother to report his having been detained and kidnapped. Gu was afraid of her son being kidnapped and killed [or] suffering bodily harm. First, she reported the case to the Chongqing police, and the then police chief, Wang Lijun, took the case. But because the case took place in England, and there was not any solid proof, it was impossible to take coercive measures. This then gave her the motive for getting rid of Heywood in order to protect her son.” She has depicted herself—and was helped in the depiction by prosecutors—as a protective mother driven to a frantic defense. According to Xinhua, she 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.” [Source: by Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, August 11, 2012]

“Bo Guagua told Reuters in an email that he could not "comment on any of the details" of alleged transactions with Heywood. "I can disclose there is no such thing as either possessing or transferring 130 million pounds," Guagua said, referring to the value of the soured deal that prosecutors said Heywood and Guagua were involved in. [Ibid]

British media have suggested Neil Heywood was involved in money laundering, worked for British intelligence or that he was Gu's lover. In London, Heywood's mother accused the press of spreading lies about her son. "You've all behaved so appallingly," Ann Heywood said outside her home. [Ibid]

Gu Confesses to Killing Heywood: Xinhua

At her trial, according to state media reports, Gu admitted poisoning Heywood after he came to visit her in Chongqing. Gu’s aide, Zhang, had driven Heywood to Chongqing from Beijing and prepared a poison which was to be put later into a drink of water. Later that day, Heywood met Gu at a hotel, he became drunk and vomited and then asked for water. "She poured a poison into his mouth," the official said. Gu admitted pouring potassium cyanide down his throat.

"During those days last November, I suffered a mental breakdown after learning that my son was in jeopardy," Gu said. Gu introduced Heywood "to serve as a proxy to a company and participate in the planning of a land project, which never got started", the official court report said. "Heywood later got into a dispute with Bogu Kailai and her son over payment and other issues, and he threatened her son's personal safety," it said. Bogu is Gu's formal surname. [Source: John Ruwitch and Chris Buckley, Reuters, August 10, 2012]

Court official, Tang Yigan, told reporters in the eastern city of Hefei that the four police - from Bo's former powerbase of southwest Chongqing, the vast municipality where Heywood was killed - had found that Gu was a prime suspect. "By falsifying interview records, concealing evidence and other means, they covered up the fact that she had been at the scene," Tang said, adding that one of the four policemen, Guo Weiguo, was a friend of the Bo family. [Ibid]

Gu and a family aide poisoned Heywood at a Chongqing hotel, using a cyanide compound, the Xinhua report said, adding dramatic detail to the confrontation behind the scandal. Heywood became drunk, and after he asked for a glass of water, Gu "put the bottle of cyanide compound she had prepared into Heywood's mouth" and scattered capsules around his villa room to make it appear as if he had been popping pills.

Chinese Court Account of Gu Kailai Trial

According to a Reuters' translation of the main part of the account of the trial issued by the court in Hefei, provincial capital of Anhui in eastern China, and given to reporters—This morning at 8:30, the first section of this court held a public trial attended by prosecutors, the accused Bogu Kailai [Gu Kalai] and Zhang Xiaojun and their defense attorneys, as well as an attorney engaged by the relatives of the victim, Neil Heywood. More than 140 people were present at the hearing, including some friends and relatives of Bogu Kailai, Zhang Xiaojun and the victim Neil Heywood; British consular officials; journalists; People's Congress delegates, People's Political Consultative Conference members and members of the public." [Source: Reuters, August 9, 2012]

“The Hefei People's Procuratorate charged that the accused Bogu Kailai and her son Bo became involved in a dispute over economic interests with the victim, Neil Heywood. Bogu Kailai believed that Neil Heywood had threatened the personal safety of her son Bo, and decided to kill him. She then arranged for the co-accused Zhang Xiaojun - an employee of the Chongqing Municipal Party Committee office - to invite and accompany Heywood from Beijing to Chongqing. [Ibid]

“On the evening of November 13, 2011, Bogu Kailai went to Heywood when he was staying in Room 1605 at Building No. 16 of the Nanshan Lijing Holiday Hotel and drank alcoholic drinks and tea with him. 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. [Ibid]

“The Hefei People's Procuratorate believes that the accused Bogu Kailai and Zhang Xiaojun used brutal means to commit murder, and the facts of the crime are clear and backed by ample evidence. Their actions violated Article 232 of the Criminal Code of the People's Republic of China, and they should be prosecuted for criminal culpability for intentional homicide. This case involved a joint offence, with Bogu Kailai as the principal offender and Zhang Xiaojun as the accessory. [Ibid]

“The accused Bogu Kailai and Zhang Xiaojun did not raise objections to the facts and the charge of intentional homicide. The defense lawyers for the accused Bogu Kailai and Zhang Xiaojun respectively presented their defense. Bogu Kailai's defense believed that the victim bore some responsibility for the causes of the case; that Bogu Kailai's capacity for control was weaker than normal people's at the time of the offence; and that the accused had rendered major contributions by informing on the crimes of others; and he pleaded with the court to take into account general considerations in passing judgment. The defense for Zhang Xiaojun argued that he was an accomplice, and that in passing judgment on Zhang it should give a lighter punishment according to the law. The attorney engaged by the relatives of the victim submitted opinions on dealing with some of the criminal matters, and stated respect for the court's open trial. "During the trial, Bogu Kailai was in good health and emotionally stable.” [Ibid]

Details That Emerged During the Gu Kailai Trial

Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times: “ According to several accounts, prosecutors said that Ms. Gu herself procured the poison, a commercially available product for exterminating animals, and that the dispute with Mr. Heywood centered on his efforts to strong-arm her son into paying approximately £14 million [$22 million] that he said he was owed to him after a joint business venture went bust. At one point, Mr. Heywood briefly detained the son, Bo Guagua, inside his home in England, and then sent a threatening e-mail to Ms. Gu demanding the money, a courtroom witnesses said. The e-mail, which was displayed in the courtroom, threatened to “destroy” him. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, August 9 and 20, 2012]

“Prosecutors also said that Wang Lijun, a trusted aide of Mr. Bo’s, met with Ms. Gu a day after the murder and secretly recorded a conversation in which she discussed the crime. The courtroom accounts said that Mr. Wang had taken a blood sample from Mr. Heywood’s heart as potential evidence, although it tested negative for poison. Mr. Wang, fearing for his life, later sought refuge in the United States Consulate in Chengdu, where he reportedly revealed details of the murder to American officials. [Ibid]

“The court official here in Hefei, Tang Yigan, portrayed Ms. Gu as emotionally frail. He quoted her lawyers as saying that Ms. Gu’s “ability to control her own behavior was weaker than a normal person.” But Mr. Tang made a point of describing Ms. Gu as “healthy and emotionally stable” during the trial. The lawyers, he added, said that they hoped for leniency given that she had assisted the authorities with details about other people’s crimes. [Ibid]

“CCTV reported that four police officials in Chongqing had been charged with helping Ms. Gu in a cover-up. By focusing exclusively on the murder, said Cheng Li, an expert on Chinese politics at the Brookings Institution, party leaders were able to avoid revealing details about the financial dealings of Ms. Gu and Mr. Bo. Li Xiaolin, a lawyer who was hired by Mr. Zhang’s family, said there were glaring holes in the prosecution’s case. “I found the evidence presented in court was incomplete...Lots of pieces were missing.” [Ibid]

“The state news media portrayed Gu as a mentally unstable woman addled by antidepressants and ‘sedative hypnotic drugs.” The official accounts of the crime also sought to place some of the blame on the victim, painting him as a craven businessman who at one point “detained” the son at a residence in Britain, although it provided no details. [Ibid]

Bo Xilai’s Son’s Court Statement and Gu Kalai’s Defense of Chinese Justice

Reuters reported: “Bo Guagua, Bo and Gu's son told CNN in an e-mail that he had submitted a witness statement to the court. "As I was cited as a motivating factor for the crimes accused of my mother, I have already submitted my witness statement," Guagua told CNN. "I hope that my mother will have the opportunity to review them...I have faith that facts will speak for themselves." [Source: Reuters, August 8, 2012]

“Guagua told Reuters in an email that he could not elaborate on the witness statement beyond what he told CNN. "I can't give anything else at this time," Guagua said. When Gu was formally indicted, the official allegation instead hinted at a personal motive, saying Heywood had made unspecified threats against Guagua - a factor that could count as a mitigating circumstance and help Gu avoid execution. [Ibid]

“Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times: “In a bitter twist of fate, Ms. Gu, herself a lawyer, once expressed an unshakable faith in her nation’s legal system. In a book she wrote after visiting the United States in 1998 and successfully representing a Chinese company in a civil trial, she ridiculed the American justice system as doddering and inept. “They can level charges against dogs and a court can even convict a husband of raping his wife,” she wrote. By contrast, China’s system was straightforward and judicious. “We don’t play with words and we adhere to the principle of “based on facts,” “ she wrote. “You will be arrested, sentenced and executed as long as we determine that you killed someone.” [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, August 9, 2012]

New York Times on the Gu Kailai Trial

Andrew Jacobs, New York Times: “When it comes to patriotic blockbusters, synchronized military parades and choreographed political cavalcades that fill the Great Hall of the People, the Chinese Communist Party knows how to put on a show. But in publicly prosecuting Gu Kailai, the wife of the purged political leader Bo Xilai, for murdering a British business associate, it seems to have committed some fumbles. The party’s carefully scripted trial of Ms. Gu appears to have prompted anger and cynicism from almost everyone here who paid attention. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, August 20, 2012]

“Worried that a longtime friend and business associate might harm her only child, Gu Kailai lured him to a rented villa in southwest China, plied him with alcohol until he could take no more and then, when he began to vomit and requested a drink of water, poured a poisonous concoction into his mouth. That, at least, is the prosecution’s version of what happened in a scandal that has riveted many in China and outside the country for months, presented in a neatly packaged capstone after a murder trial that lasted, with a break for lunch, less than seven hours. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, August 9, 2012]

“The criminal facts are clear; the evidence is solid,” a court official said after the trial here in the provincial capital of Anhui Province, more than 800 miles from the scene of the crime in Chongqing. Communist Party leaders clearly hoped the proceedings, which were closed to the foreign news media and shown on television only in carefully packaged snippets, would provide the Chinese public with a captivating spectacle that would distract attention from the political scandal surrounding Ms. Gu’s husban. But if they hoped the trial would also showcase a more transparent, by-the-books legal system, they are likely to be disappointed. [Ibid]

“Ms. Gu and her accomplice, Zhang Xiaojun, were deprived of their own legal counsel and forced to accept a government-appointed lawyer. No defense witnesses were produced during the trial. The defendants’ lawyers never had a chance to review the prosecution’s evidence. Die-hard leftists who still back Mr. Bo and his populist policies detected strands of a grand political conspiracy. Legal scholars identified glaring inconsistencies in what the government had trumpeted as a model of judicial exactitude. And liberals, noting that Ms. Gu’s crime would have remained secret had not a player in the scandal divulged incriminating details to American diplomats, found further evidence that their leaders believe they can literally get away with murder. [Ibid]

“Many legal analysts said “her trial will reinforce the widely held notion that despite three decades of legal reform, the Communist Party keeps an iron grip on many judicial proceedings and dictates a denouement that serves its political needs. “This is not a trial that is likely to enhance China’s reputation for soft power,” said Jerome A. Cohen, an expert in Chinese law at New York University. “It’s not likely to improve foreign respect for China’s rule of law and human rights.” [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, August 20, 2012]

“With a conviction rate of 98 percent, Chinese prosecutors almost never lose. Indeed, Ms. Gu’s prosecution showcased the system’s ruthless efficiency. Weeks before the trial began, the official Xinhua news service telegraphed that the outcome had already been decided by announcing that the evidence was “irrefutable and substantial.” Many legal analysts said the details that emerged were undoubtedly decided weeks ago by senior leaders, who are eager to close the chapter on a scandal that has strained relations between Britain and China, and roiled the once-a-decade leadership transition scheduled for the fall. “This trial is the outcome of a political struggle,” said Pu Zhiqiang, a defense lawyer, referring to powerful enemies of Mr. Bo, a brash up-and-comer who alienated many party luminaries. “Any trial to which the central party pays this much attention had no chance of being fair.” [Ibid]

“Commenting on the trial of Gu Kailai, Evan Osnos of The New Yorker wrote: “Rarely has someone admitting to murder looked so sympathetic in doing so. The mitigating factors, the narrative, and the details have been carefully sculpted to ensure as little damage as possible to Gu and her husband, Bo Xilai, while shifting blame to those with less political clout—namely the deceased and the police officer who ratted them out. The trial was theatre—closed to everyone but hand-picked attendees, carefully planned and executed in a single day’so we are left to piece together accounts from someone purportedly in the courtroom... Given all those various incentives to steer the narrative in one direction or another, it’s best to see this less as a simple story of what happened than as a narrative constructed out of facts, accusations, and political imperatives. [Source: by Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, August 11, 2012]

Suspended Death Sentence for Gu Kailai

Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times: “ A Chinese court handed Gu Kailai, the wife of a disgraced Communist Party leader, a suspended death sentence for killing Heywood. In the Chinese legal system, such a sentence is tantamount to life in prison. Ms. Gu could have been executed soon after the guilty verdict was announced, although most analysts had thought such a punishment unlikely. The sentence was announced with a two-year reprieve, meaning that the threat of execution would be lifted after two years, contingent upon her good behavior. Suspended death sentences in China are often tantamount to life in prison, but good behavior can bring jail time down to 25 years. And the Dui Hua Foundation, a San Francisco group that advocates reform of China’s criminal justice system, noted that the psychological ailments cited by the court could make medical parole possible in less than a decade. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, August 20, 2012]

“In news footage televised by the state broadcaster, China Central Television, Ms. Gu stood in the dock and calmly praised the verdict “The sentence is just and shows immense respect for the law, reality and life,” she said. Ms. Gu’s main accomplice, Zhang Xiaojun, a household employee, was sentenced to nine years in prison for what was said to be his limited role in helping Ms. Gu murder Heywood with a cyanide-based poison. Also, four Chongqing police officials who confessed to helping cover up the murder were sentenced to jail terms of 5 to 11 years. [Ibid]

“Nearly all the courtroom seats were filled by government workers who had been dispatched to the hearing, according to one attendee who said she was from the local public security bureau. Although China’s propaganda officials have restricted news media coverage of the case, the murder of Mr. Heywood and prosecution of Ms. Gu have riveted a nation unaccustomed to seeing members of the political elite so publicly exposed. Some historians have likened Ms. Gu’s downfall to that of Jiang Qing, the wife of Mao Zedong who was accused of counterrevolutionary crimes after his death but whose televised show trial in 1980 was far more accessible to the Chinese people. [Ibid]

“He Zhengsheng, the lawyer for Mr. Heywood’s family, told reporters outside the courthouse that he did not object to the sentence. In a statement, the British Embassy said it welcomed “the fact that the Chinese authorities have investigated the death of Neil Heywood, and tried those they identified as responsible,” adding that it had made clear to Chinese officials that it did not want the death penalty to be applied. [Ibid]

“Although few questioned Ms. Gu’s role in the murder, rights advocates criticized her prosecution as driven more by politics than by exacting legal procedure. Relatives say she was forced to accept government-appointed lawyers, who did not have access to case files before the trial began. [Ibid]

Reasons Why Gu Kailai was Given a Suspended Death Sentence

Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times: “ Shortly after the verdict, Tang Yigan, deputy director of the Hefei Intermediate People’s Court in Anhui Province, told reporters that the court had weighed Ms. Gu’s confession, her testimony implicating others and the litany of psychological problems she is reported to have suffered. In the end, however, he said Mr. Heywood’s threats in no way justified her crimes. He added that the defendants had agreed to not appeal their sentences. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, August 20, 2012]

“Legal analysts and political experts said Ms. Gu’s suspended death sentence was most likely calibrated to satisfy the Chinese public and the British government, along with supporters of Mr. Bo. He remains a darling among leftists and certain factions of the leadership who admired his zealous campaign against organized crime and his efforts to address some of the economic disparities that have accompanied three decades of free-market reform. [Ibid]

“Mr. Zhang’s relatively light sentence reflected his limited role; prosecutors said he had participated in the scheme, after initially declining, because of his loyalty to a family that had employed him since 2005. Both defendants reportedly confessed. According to the account provided by Xinhua and confirmed by several people who sat through the trial, Ms. Gu apologized to the court, saying she had caused “great losses to the party and the country, for which I ought to shoulder the responsibility.” She also described the case as “a huge stone weighing on me for more than half a year.” [Ibid]

“Even if it emphasized her psychological troubles, the court did not absolve her, saying she managed to meticulously orchestrate a murder and then planned an elaborate cover-up. He Weifang, a legal scholar, said a suspended death sentence with two-year reprieve was rooted in imperial law. “A suspended death penalty is something that only exists in China,” he said. “Mao thought it was a good idea and wrote it into China’s modern criminal law in the 1950s because he believed that anyone can be educated and reformed.” [Ibid]

Reactions to Gu Kailai Sentence

“For many people, the party was just trying to use the justice system for their own purposes, but they did it in such a way that made everyone laugh,” said Ai Weiwei, the Chinese artist, told the New York Times. “It’s obvious to everyone that they came up with the sentence before the facts were known.” ‘she planned the crime herself, put the poison in his mouth herself, destroyed the evidence herself but didn’t turn herself in,” Wang Lianqi, a lawyer and commentator, wrote in a blog post. “Why did she receive a suspended death sentence? Could it be that our Constitution has been amended to say that people are not treated equally before the law?” [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, August 20, 2012]

“Xinhua news agency trumpeted the sentence as an expression of the government’s devotion to the rule of law. “Listening to both the trial and the verdict announcement gave me firsthand experience of justice delivered by the law,” said one Wang Xiuqin, a local party member in Anhui Province, where the trial was held. “A healthy socialist legal system does not leave crimes unpunished.” [Ibid]

Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times: “Even ordinary Chinese ridiculed the decision to spare Ms. Gu’s life, saying a commoner would have been summarily executed for the murder of a foreigner. ‘steal a whole country and they make you prince. Steal a fishing hook and they hang you,” read one oft-forwarded proverb. On Sina Weibo, the country’s most popular microblog service, Ms. Gu was avidly compared to Xia Junfeng, a food peddler on death row who fatally stabbed two urban management officials after they beat him. “A lawyer who commits premeditated murder gets a suspended death penalty, and a peddler who defends himself gets death,” one posting said. “This is the Chinese justice system.” [Source: Andrew Jacobs, August 20, 2012]

“Even Ms. Gu’s emotionally leaden statement at her sentencing inspired disbelief and ridicule. In her brief monologue, she thanked the court for its magnanimity. Ma Jian, an exiled Chinese novelist who lives in London, found her performance patently scripted. “Not since Stalin’s show trials of the 1930s,” he wrote in a blog post, “has a defendant so effusively praised a judge who seemed bound to condemn her at a trial where no witness or evidence against her was presented.” [Ibid]

Questions and Inconsistencies in the Gu Kailai Trial

Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times: “ The trial raised a long list of unanswered questions. Why would a powerful woman like Ms. Gu kill a man she could have easily had arrested or deported? Why did none of the witnesses testify in court? And if Mr. Heywood had threatened the life of her son as prosecutors claim, why would Mr. Heywood have traveled to Chongqing to spend a night drinking at her side? Many also found implausible Ms. Gu’s purported main contention: that Mr. Heywood had briefly detained her son, Bo Guagua, during a visit to Britain, and then sent an e-mail threatening to “destroy” him. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, August 20, 2012]

“Then there were the small inconsistencies: The court said Ms. Gu and Mr. Heywood had first met in 2005; most published accounts say their association dates back to at least the late 1990s, when Mr. Heywood helped her son gain admission to an elite British school. “This was a satire of justice,” said He Weifang, a law professor at Peking University. “The trial was more about covering up facts than revealing what really has happened.” [Ibid]

“From the outset, the murder of Mr. Heywood was an especially daunting public relations challenge for the party. And the Internet made the task even more daunting “ despite a veritable army of censors. Judicial officials, who normally conduct criminal trials behind closed doors, were forced to accept greater transparency because of the victim’s nationality. The authorities barred foreign journalists but could not deny access to British consular officials. [Ibid]

“But party strategists seem to have made several miscalculations, releasing details of a confession by Ms. Gu that defied conventional wisdom and allowing leaks from several attendees of the trial. Portions of those accounts, including prosecution claims that Mr. Bo’s most trusted aide had a hand in the cover-up, were omitted from an official narrative released by the state media, fueling accusations that the authorities were trying to shield Mr. Bo from any criminal charges. [Ibid]

Gu Kailai Trial and Possible Cover Up Charges Against Bo Xilai

Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times: “Bo was the biggest elephant in the room. There was one prosaic mention of his name, but no exploration of whether he had played any role in the crime. Also absent was his former aide, Wang Lijun, that pivotal player who started the case’s unraveling. Perhaps the most glaring omission was the trial’s failure to discuss the so-called economic dispute underlying the crime. Prosecutors said Mr. Heywood had been demanding $22 million from the family for a failed real estate venture. Many wondered how Mr. Bo, a civil servant, and Ms. Gu, who had not worked in years, might have been expected to come up with such a sum. The implication, many analysts say, is that the Communist Party was eager to avoid highlighting the sort of unbridled official corruption that many Chinese believe is endemic. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, August 20, 2012]

After Gu Kailai’s trial Associated Press commented: Trying disgraced politician Bo Xilai's wife for murder was the easy part in cleaning up the political mess the couple has created for China's communist party. Now comes the tough bit: punishing Bo for abuse of power without further tarnishing the party's reputation.Disciplining him quietly will save the party the embarrassment of washing its dirty linen in public but reinforce public perception that it goes soft on one of its own. Analysts say the leadership is therefore more likely to bite the bullet and try Bo in public. Time is growing tight for an announcement, since the party may want to deal with the matter ahead of a national congress this fall that will usher in a once-in-a-decade transfer of power to new leaders. [Source: Associated Press, August 13, 2012]

“John Ruwitch of Reuters wrote: “ In sketching out the case against Gu for the first time, the court official also revealed that four Chinese policemen had now been charged with trying to protect her from investigation - a development that could prove dangerous for Bo, who has so far not been charged with any criminal offence. Police sources in Chongqing have said that the former Politburo member tried to shut down the investigation into his wife after being told she was a suspect. [Source: John Ruwitch, Reuters, August 9, 2012]

“As the trial took place, police dragged two Bo supporters into an unmarked car after they appeared outside the courthouse, singing patriotic songs that were the trademark of Bo's populist leadership style and condemning the trial as a sham. "I don't believe it. This case was decided well in advance," Hu Jiye, a middle-aged man wearing a T-shirt and baseball cap, told foreign reporters at the rear of the court building, which was cordoned off by dozens of police standing in heavy rain. [Ibid]

Gu Kailai’s Appearance Change

The face of Gu Kailai shown during her trial was astonishingly different from photographs of her taken only a few years before. At the trial her eyes were puffy and her face was round. In older photographs she looked quite svelte and attractive for a women in her 40s. The changes were blamed on the carbohydrate-rich prison diet, inactivity and medication. [Ibid]

The New York Times reported that Gu “appeared to have gained considerable weight, and a relative expressed shock, saying her face had changed dramatically since they had last met.” The Wall Street Journal wrote that Gu was “a bit heavier and less glamorous than in photographs of her that have been published in news stories around the world since the scandal broke,” adding the explanation that most of the photographs “were taken between five and 15 years ago “

Was There a Body Double at Gu Kailai’s Trial?

Geoffrey Sant wrote in The Slate: “Earlier this month, Slate reported how China’s rich and powerful can hire body doubles to stand in for them at court and in prison. China’s tradition of substitute criminals—and even substitute executions—dates at least as far back as the mid-1600s, when the early Dominican missionary Domingo Fernandez Navarrete expressed shock at the “ease and frequency with which wealthy convicts hired proxies to suffer punishments on their behalf.” This practice is called ding zui in Chinese. [Source: Geoffrey Sant, The Slate, August 24, 2012]

The most recent allegations of a substitute criminal began the moment people saw Gu Kailai enter the courtroom. Gu’s appearance had changed so much that even her own relatives were confused...Many in China, however, felt Gu looked different because she was different. Western expatriates were soon “abuzz with talk that the woman who appeared in the dock” may be a body double. Chinese netizens began posting and circulating accusations of a criminal stand-in, which were quickly censored by the government, only to live on in snippet form as Google caches. For example, the cached form of one now-erased message containing hits for “Gu Kailai” and “ding zui” begins: “I used to hear old folks talk about how in the old days, when somebody committed a crime, they could spend money and buy a person to be their substitute. Today, there are still people who can spend money and buy a person to be their substitute?” (Clicking the link, however, results in the message: ‘sorry! The page you are looking for doesn’t exist or has been deleted.”)

This Web page, which has so far survived, claims to show images of “The Real and Fake Gu Kailai,” asserting: “No matter how a person’s face might change, the facial structure, eyes, and the distance between the eyebrows remains the same. The angles of the photograph might have some effect on one’s appearance, but even so, the tip of an adult’s nose is never going to change. The photo of “Gu Kailai” in court shows a nose that is clearly rounded and full with flesh at its tip, while the Gu Kailai in the photo with Bo Xilai has a sharply pointed nose.”

One viral rumor, remarkably detailed in its allegations, displays side-by-side images of the woman in court and Gu, together with the headline: “Huge News: The woman who is the body double for Gu Kailai is a roughly 46 year-old Langfang resident named Zhao Tianyun.” A subheading urges the public to work together through crowd-sourcing to solve the body double mystery. Several paragraphs then describe how the author supposedly learned from a friend working in the Chinese government that Zhao Tianyun was Gu’s body double, and that the real Gu is still living in Beijing. Apparently to prevent this message from spreading, the Chinese government has blocked all searches for the term “ti-shen” (body double), a phrase appearing within this message, as well as searches for the name Zhao Tianyun. [Ibid]

Most Gu body double rumors are anonymous Internet postings. Nevertheless, a handful of people have brought allegations to the press. The Sydney Morning Herald quotes a fervent Bo Xilai supporter as stating that it’s “highly likely that an imposter Gu replaced the real Gu” and that “this is a well-planned scheme.” A Taiwan newspaper quoted Internet postings by a person claiming to be Gu’s sister-in-law Yu Shuqin, denying that the woman in court was Gu: “It doesn’t matter how fat a woman becomes, the shape of her ears will never change.”

Why would Chinese authorities allow a body double to be used at all during a closely-watched, internationally broadcast court hearing? Despite her crimes, the Bo family has tremendous clout. A body double might be permitted to protect Gu from even the minor indignity of attending a court hearing. Gu’s supporters speculate that Communist Party officials could have insisted on a docile stand-in to prevent Gu from being able to speak out in court. [Ibid]

On Aug. 19, the Financial Times published an article on the Gu Kailai case which included the brief and tantalizing sentence, “Two security experts familiar with facial recognition software said the person shown in state television footage of the courtroom was not Ms. Gu.” While the expert opinion cited by the Financial Times garnered a lot of attention, some critics pointed out that the experts did not indicate that they had actually conducted an analysis, and instead appeared to be offering their personal opinions. [Ibid]

So what are we to think? Was it really Gu Kailai in the dock or not? We wanted to have an independent expert conduct a proper analysis, so we turned to Dr. Behnam Bavarian, the Managing Director of AFIS and Biometrics Consulting, and a recognized expert who has testified on facial recognition. Dr. Bavarian examined known photographs of Gu, as well as images of the woman who appeared as Gu in court. His analysis involved reviewing the “landmarks” in the face, and performing mathematical calculations to determine whether or not the compared faces fall within the range of a possible match. Dr. Bavarian used a method of analysis that he has helped develop for homeland security projects, in which images captured on video (which tend to be of poorer resolution) can nevertheless be compared to other known images of the suspect. [Ibid]

Dr. Bavarian concluded that Gu Kailai and the person appearing in court were “likely the same person.” Dr. Bavarian could not provide an answer with 100 percent certainty due to the relatively poor resolution of the images of the woman in court, which were taken from state television broadcasts. The calculations are sensitive to such issues as the person’s pose, tilt of the head, and lighting. None of these were ideal in this case. “I’m not saying it is the same person,” he emphasized. However, overall, the measurements of features on the face of the woman in court such as the distance between specific places on the nose, eyes, and lips—were reasonably close matches to known photographs of Gu. Because the courtroom images showed “a high degree of similarity” to known images, “if I was testifying in court, I would say it is likely the same person.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated December 2012

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