Analysis: Gu Kailai show trial reveals strife in the central committee
THE trial, conviction, and suspended death sentence served on Monday on Gu Kailai, wife of purged Chinese city boss Bo Xilai, has called into question China’s legal system and the unity of the Communist Party leadership.
The trial raised many questions. For starters, Gu claimed she killed British businessman Neil Heywood to protect her son but she could have had him jailed or expelled at the snap of her fingers. No need for cyanide.
Still, she not only admitted her guilt but seemed to embrace it. “In order to uphold the sanctity of the law,” she told the court, “I am willing to accept and calmly face whatever judgment I am given, and I also expect a fair and just judgment.”
The irony of Gu’s high-speed trial is that she was a true believer in China’s legal system. Indeed she wrote a book in which she claimed China provides “the fairest method of trial”. She continued: “Chinese lawyers would not quibble over the meaning of each little word. Once they are sure that you murdered someone, you will be arrested, judged, and executed by firing squad.”
Indeed, Gu was an avatar of the Maoist form of legality that China has maintained long after Mao’s death. Having failed the entrance examination to Peking University, Gu was granted an exemption and admitted to read law soon after the Communist Party restored the law departments. Prior to that, she sold pork in a Beijing market, where she earned the nicknamed, “Yi dao zhun,” meaning she could hack off a cut of meat with one blow.
Gu was one of the first lawyers licensed. But, with the Tiananmen Square incident of 1989, the authorities clamped down on the profession’s autonomy. The party reasserted control of justice through the Communist Party central committee’s Political and Legal Affairs Committee (Plac).
This totalitarian organ has no known address yet manages China’s police, prosecutors, courts and justice ministry, and appoints their leadership. All lawyers fall under its remit. And all local Plac secretaries simultaneously lead the local public-security bureaux.
But even this monolithic system of control is porous. Had Wang Lijun, the former Chongqing police commissioner and close ally of Bo Xilai, feared for his life and fled to the US consulate in Chengdu, Gu would still be helping Bo rule the city. Wang is no saint. Before he became Bo’s police commissioner, he was director of the Field Psychology Research Centre, where the condemned were executed and their organs removed. Given his familiarity with the brutality of the Chinese system, Wang understood that, after falling out with Gu and Bo, the US consulate might be the only place he could find safety as Gu always had the final say on public-security issues. She acted as her husband’s adviser for cracking down on crime and corruption, and was responsible for sending two people – including the Plac secretary in Wushan County – to prison.
In fact, a few days after killing Heywood, Gu donned a major-general’s uniform (which could have been her father’s), convened police officers in Chongqing and falsely claimed she had received a secret order from the Ministry of Public Security to protect Wang’s safety. The uniform, perhaps, was intended to intimidate the Chongqing police.
But, in a strange twist, Wang was whisked from the consulate to Beijing, where he presented the party leadership with the evidence that brought about Bo’s downfall and Gu’s arrest. But revealing the skeletons in Bo’s closet also meant revealing the secret world of the “red aristocracy.” So Wang can expect no leniency at his trial, which will most probably end with a commuted death sentence.
In order to protect the red aristocracy, the Plac made no mention during Gu’s trial of her economic crimes. So, in the Plac’s rewrite of history, Heywood was murdered so Gu could protect her son, Bo Guagua. And Wang did not defend China by revealing Bo’s and Gu’s criminality, but aired his stories to hostile foreign forces. Only through his punishment can popular indignation be contained.
But the Bo Xilai and Gu Kailai affair may only be a prologue, because the only clear truth to emerge is that the party leadership is fractured. The wolves are now turning upon each other.
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Monday 20 May 2013
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