Bo's wife reveals other side in book
An astute but ruthless businesswoman, an unhappy wife, a terminal cancer patient - those are just some of the ways that Gu Kailai has been portrayed since the downfall of her husband, former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai.
But if a book she wrote in the late 1990s is anything to go by, Gu was once an idealistic lawyer who believed in the spirit of the law and aspired to raise her country's legal standards. Published in 1998, Uphold Justice in America tells of Gu's experiences while defending several state-owned Chinese companies in an American lawsuit.
Since her husband's dismissal from his Chongqing post on March 15, 54-year-old Gu has been at the centre of a scandal that culminated in her being charged with the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.
Bo is also being investigated for 'serious breaches of party discipline', which could involve anything from covering up the alleged murder to corruption, allegedly facilitated through companies Gu set up.
One of the companies is the Beijing Law office of Horus L.Kai, which she set up in 1995. It later opened branches in Dalian and Zhengzhou, and at one point employed some 28 lawyers.
It is the main focus of Uphold Justice in America, as Gu and her team put together their successful 1997 defence of several Dalian businesses against a US federal court order in Alabama that they pay US$14 million in compensation and punitive damages after failing to show up at two court hearings, even though they were victims of a fraud perpetrated by their US counterparts.
In a preface to the book, her teacher at Peking University, the late international law professor Wang Tieya, said that when Gu was a student, she showed 'strong cultural consciousness' in her studies, and he encouraged her to research the relationship between law and culture.
'You once told me that your purpose was not only to reap material benefits, but also to seek spiritual gain,' Wang wrote. 'I'm pleased to see that your law firm ... is not only a business, but also a place to ... help the country to reach its goal of rule of law.'
Gu's book is laden with patriotic sentiment and describes the US judgment as unfair and ignorant of Chinese culture. Gu also cites the O.J.Simpson case to argue that a litigation system that allows a murderer to be let off on a technicality is 'an illustration that American law is reaching its end'.
Elsewhere in the book, however, she compliments the US court system on its fairness.
'In China, litigation is about networking. Many clients expect lawyers to invite judges to dinner, and if lawyers don't do it, they say you are useless,' Gu lamented.
'Very fortunately, this practice has not spread to this southern city in the United States [Montgomery, Alabama]. Very fortunately, none of us here could see the judge when he was not in his robes.'
Some are unimpressed by the book. Commentator Michael Anti said on Twitter that 'it's all boasting, turning a simple case in the US into a big drama', while former Wen Weipo journalist Jiang Weiping, who was jailed during Bo's tenure in Dalian, said Gu wrote the book to 'wow and fool the public'.
Gu never mentions in the book that Bo was mayor of Dalian at the time, but stresses many times that the firm volunteered to take on the case to serve the 'motherland' - despite initial opposition from some of the firm's lawyers. She also said the firm was picked by the Dalian authorities because of its mix of Chinese and foreign legal experts.
There has been speculation that Gu continued to keep an eye on her business interests in Dalian and later Chongqing, even though she reportedly became a stay-at-home mum more than a decade ago. In 2010, Bo told a press conference during the annual meeting of the National People's Congress that Gu had stepped down at the height of her career for him. Last month he said she closed her law firm and all its branches in order to avoid gossip suggesting that Bo was using Gu to make money.
However, according to public records, the law firm changed its name to Angdao and is still operating from the same address in Beijing. Various websites about the firm still list Gu as one of its lawyers.
A man at the office, who refused to give his name, said last week that it had not been linked to Gu since 2001.