Nationality of Bo's spouse is now in doubt

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 April, 2012, 12:00am
 

A Xinhua report that made an unusual reference to the wife of Chongqing's embattled former party chief as Bo-Gu Kailai is fuelling further speculation about the couple.

The reference in the report on Tuesday, which linked the former lawyer to the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, is presumably based on her name in her official identity documents.

That is stirring rumours that Bo's wife secretly obtained a second citizenship - a legal violation if she remains a Chinese national.

The addition of her husband's surname to hers is a practice that is no longer common on the mainland. Mrs Bo was typically referred to as Gu Kailai in previous media reports.

Mainland laws clearly forbid dual citizenships. However, many mainlanders have managed to secure a second citizenship while still retaining their Chinese citizenship - as long as their identification cards are not due for renewal.

But even if Gu has renounced her Chinese citizenship, she could still face legal sanctions due to increasingly tight regulations on so-called 'naked officials' - high-ranking officials who have secured foreign citizenships for their families, and therefore have a much higher likelihood of moving all their assets abroad.

While mainland laws forbid civil servants and high-ranking cadres from holding foreign passports, the rules governing their spouses and children are less clear-cut.

Gu Kailai is a party member, according to her registration as a lawyer on the website of the Beijing Judicial Bureau. A rank-and-file party member is also not allowed to be a foreign passport holder, according to veteran China analysts.

In recent years, however, the state issued new rules mandating officials to declare their foreign assets and whether their family members are foreign passport-holders. That came amid growing public concern about government corruption and the fast-growing number of 'naked officials'.

This year, the Communist Party in Guangdong has said that 'naked officials' are not allowed to fill key leadership posts.

Some cities such as Shenzhen and Xiangtan of Hunan have introduced more comprehensive rules blocking key positions to officials whose family members hold foreign passports but still live on the mainland.

However, public administration experts say there is no national rule against 'naked officials' from filling key positions. They say Bo Xilai's future might depend on whether he had declared his wife's citizenship status to his superiors.

There is, of course, the possibility that Gu is registered as Bo-Gu Kailai in her mainland identity documents.

To be sure, a People's Daily commentary yesterday about anti-graft challenges helped fuel speculation about the dual-nationality issue. It said a growing number of officials have secretly obtained dual citizenships, and that a rising number of them were using their spouse or other third parties to accept bribes.

Gu's name - which shares the same character of 'lai' with Bo's name - had been a topic of discussion. In 2007, Gu told magazine Vista that her 'lai' was a different character to Bo's 'lai', adding that Bo had asked her to change it to his.

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