Gu's case reveals corruption of power

Hu Shuli says the police cover-up of her crime only fed her sense of impunity, which a socialist country under the rule of law must not tolerate

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 August, 2012, 7:14am


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A review of Xinhua's accounts this month of the Gu Kailai and Zhang Xiaojun murder trial and Monday's sentencing revealed a trove of important information. The details included the criminal charges, the type of evidence brought forward, expert opinion and a story on the circumstances surrounding the death of British businessman Neil Heywood.

When the investigation into Heywood's death was first announced on April 10 by Xinhua, the official report said, "China is a socialist country run by the rule of law. The dignity and power of law shall not be trampled on."

After reading the report of the court proceedings, people realised that the use of the word "trampled" was pretty accurate.

Just think, from the moment Gu planned the murder up until the time when Chongqing police were able to cover up the crime, she never panicked because she believed she would enjoy total impunity for the crime. If it hadn't been for Wang Lijun's visit to the US consulate, there would not have been any public information about it or any justice for the dead. The criminal would still be at large, her reputation as a high-powered lawyer and spouse of a senior official untarnished.

Gu would have been aware of the gravity of her offence. According to official reports, during the 2010 National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Bo Xilai praised his wife as "one of China's first generation of lawyers". He went on to say that she was "not only well-versed in legal matters, but possessed a wealth of knowledge about cultures around the world. Her knowledge, especially her legal background, was very helpful in the efforts to crack down on organised crime."

She certainly would have been aware of the serious consequences of taking someone's life, let alone a foreigner's, for which there would be international ramifications. Her brazen sense of immunity from the law was supported by a network of high-level officials in the Chongqing branch of the Ministry of Public Security.

When Heywood was found dead in the hotel, Wang, then vice-mayor and head of the Chongqing police, appointed his deputy in the public security bureau, Guo Weiguo , to handle the case. Guo was close to the Bo family, according to the Xinhua report. When Guo and his colleagues found out that Gu was the leading suspect, they chose not to pursue the case, but to cover up for her - faking testimony, hiding evidence, persuading Heywood's family to accept the conclusion that he died of an alcohol-triggered heart attack, and cremating the body without an autopsy.

Guo and the other policemen involved in the cover-up looked more like Bo's personal flunkeys than public law enforcement officers. They were high-ranking, too - a bureau chief, a deputy chief, and the leader of the investigation team. What connections linked these individuals to the Bo family?

All this happened in Chongqing, where a campaign against organised crime was touted as a major achievement in governance. It also happened in China, a country in which the constitution upholds the rule of law. What Gu and her associates have proved is that they were the biggest crooks.

Gu had said the motivation behind her crime was to protect her son. But these weren't exculpatory circumstances, nor was there enough evidence to prove her claim.

If the dispute between Gu and Heywood was over money, they could have used economic channels or a civil lawsuit to resolve it. The fact that Heywood was willing to meet Gu by himself for a drink indicated that he was not on the verge of murdering her son. It was obvious that Gu's argument did not add up. In fact, last November as events in the case were unfolding, her son was in the US studying at Harvard.

The facts about the disagreement between Gu and Heywood are hard to come by, but what is known does not excuse Gu of her crime. The story spun about a mother sacrificing herself for her own can hardly fool anyone.

The Xinhua report also raised other suspicions. First, it states, "Bogu Kailai, formerly known as Gu Kailai, has a Beijing residential registration card." The addition of her husband's surname has many wondering what her true citizenship is.

Second, according to the report, "Heywood disagreed with Bo Guagua about the amount of his payment and threatened to harm him." The involvement of money brings up the question of corruption.

China is a socialist country under the rule of law, whose "unity, dignity, and authority must be protected", President Hu Jintao said in a speech last month. No one is special in the eyes of the law, and no criminal is beyond the authority of the law. Even though her power and position were great, Gu Kailai should be no exception.

Within three months of the announcement of the murder case, the Ministry of Public Security had collected sufficient clues to build a case against Gu. Once she was implicated, Zhang was quickly arrested. On Monday, a Hefei court sentenced Gu to death, suspended for two years, and gave Zhang a nine-year jail term. Four other people involved in the cover-up were also jailed.

These developments might serve as a concluding chapter to the murder trial, but for anyone concerned with China's future, the facts of the case surely deserve further reflection.