More queries than answers from trial

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 11:27pm
 

Thursday's trial of Gu Kailai, the wife of Chongqing's former high-flying party boss Bo Xilai , raised more questions than answers about the biggest criminal scandal in the mainland's recent history.

Gu allegedly confessed to poisoning British businessman Neil Heywood in November following a financial dispute.

The high-profile case is seen as a test of the party leadership's will to promote justice and the rule of law. Some analysts say it also amounts to a trial of the justice system after three decades of legal reforms, given the glaring holes in the prosecution's case.

'There are too many questions left unanswered from this hasty trial,' said Lin Wen-cheng, director of the National Sun Yat-sen University's Institute of Mainland China Studies in Taiwan.

Lin said that the complex trial's conclusion in just six hours was far too hasty.

Mainland media outlets relied solely on Xinhua's reporting of the trial - which until late yesterday offered few details about the proceedings in the Hefei Intermediate People's Court in Anhui province.

'It is a political trial rather than a judicial one,' said Zhang Lifan , a political analyst.

Many legal analysts said the details that emerged on Thursday were undoubtedly decided upon weeks ago by the top leadership in Beijing, which is eager to close the chapter on the scandal ahead of the 10-yearly leadership transition in the autumn.

'The case is predetermined by the top leaders,' Zhang said.

Lin said the case suggested that the Communist Party was keeping an iron grip on the trial and dictating a denouement that served its political needs.

When it was first announced through Xinhua that the trial would be held in Anhui, the authorities said there was sufficient and irrefutable evidence to find Gu guilty.

'What's the point of having a trial if the evidence is irrefutable?' a Shanghai-based Western lawyer said.

The key question that has yet to be answered is what role Bo played in the case. Bo was not mentioned in the trial even though the motive for Gu's alleged crime - 'economic disputes' - was said to have involved a French property development and a Chongqing project under Bo's jurisdiction.

The case also involved several top policemen who were Bo's close associates, including Wang Lijun , who at the time of Heywood's killing was Chongqing's police chief.

'One crucial question unanswered is whether Bo was personally involved in the murder case beforehand and whether or not he was aware of the facts afterward, which will determine whether he played a role in a cover-up ,' Zhang said.

He Weifang, a lawyer, said: 'There wasn't enough discussion and they didn't bring key witnesses like Bo or Wang to the court.'

Lin said Beijing was trying to distance Bo from the murder trial and corruption allegations so as to mitigate the damage to the party's image.

Additional reporting by Keith Zhai

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