Bo Xilai

Let the world into Gu's murder trial

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 July, 2012, 12:00am


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The central government's announcement on Thursday that Gu Kailai , the wife of disgraced politician Bo Xilai, and a family aide had been charged with the 'intentional homicide' of British businessman Neil Heywood is the clearest signal yet that the authorities intend to have resolved the Chongqing scandal before the once-in-a-decade leadership change scheduled for this autumn.

Some reports have suggested that the trial is likely to begin early next week, which would no doubt attract hordes of overseas and domestic journalists to the province of Anhui, where the case is to be heard.

If past experience is any guide, such a high-profile trial will most likely be held in closed-door sessions, open to family members, officials and select state media only. If this is indeed the plan, then that's a pity. The mainland leadership should seriously consider an open trial. Only by doing so can Beijing bring closure to the biggest scandal to hit the leadership in a decade - clearing up the countless rumours about the case and the perceived power struggle in the highest echelons of mainland politics.

According to Xinhua: 'The facts of the two defendants' crime are clear, and the evidence is irrefutable and substantial.' If that is the case, the mainland leadership should have nothing to fear by granting media free access.

Indeed, as an editorial in the Global Times newspaper - which is controlled by People's Daily - suggested, public interest in Gu's trial should be encouraged, as 'the more details are revealed, the more it would help build confidence in China's legal framework'.

Chinese leaders should have learned the painful lesson that the government's silence on the case has sullied the legitimacy of the Communist Party and reputation of the country.

In April, Beijing announced Bo would be investigated for 'serious breaches of disciplines', and that Gu and aide Zhang Xiaojun would be involved in a fresh inquiry into Heywood's death following the attempted defection of former Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun in February.

Since then, the central government has chosen not to release any details about the three cases that have mesmerised the country and the international community, and the lack of information has given rise to waves of speculation.

The announcement that Gu is about to face trial comes as current and former mainland leaders are expected to head to the resort of Beidaihe , Hebei , for the last rounds of horse-trading before finalising the list of officials to be inducted into the party's Politburo and Politburo Standing Committee, which will lead the country for the next 10 years.

The announcement also suggests that Chinese leaders have reached a consensus on the Bo scandals. And it means an announcement on Wang's case and a decision on the fate of Bo should follow shortly. Wang is expected to go on trial for treason in Chengdu in the coming weeks.

As for Bo's fate, it is most likely that his expulsion from the party membership will be announced before the 18th Party Congress opens and he will be handed over for criminal investigation.

Bo's trial will most likely be held long after the leadership changes are formally approved at the 18th congress.

However, the rampant speculation is unlikely to go away unless the government releases all of the relevant details in the Bo scandals.