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China braces for murder trial of Bo Xilai's wife

August 08, 2012 18:43 IST

China on Wednesday braced for a high profile murder trial of Gu Kailai, wife of disgraced ruling Communist Party leader Bo Xilai, which will begin on Thursday.

Said to be the most politically significant case after the trial of Mao Zedong's wife Jiang Qing 36 years ago, which decisively changed the ideological course of the Communist

Party of China, Gu's trial too was expected to leave a major impact on this year's leadership changes in the party.

Gu along with her orderly Zhang Xiaojun were charged with poisoning a British businessman Neil Heywood last year in Chongqing city, where Bo ruled the roost, becoming famous in  the country for making it a crime free city with high profile crackdowns.

The trial however would be held in the eastern Chinese city of Hefei even though the Heywood murder took place in Chongqing city for which Bo was the Chief until early this year.

Several foreign journalists headed for Hefei hoping that the proceedings would be thrown open to public, which lawyers say is highly unlikely. There was no official announcement here about the trial but it came to light through selective leaks for the foreign media here.

Gu reportedly hired a set of private lawyers to defend her. Also a diplomat of the United Kingdom embassy in Beijing was expected to attend the trial as it involved the death of a British national.

Prosecutors announced earlier Gu and Zhang had been charged with intentional homicide. Heywood, businessman regarded as a close friend of Bo was found dead in a hotel in Chongqing on November 15, 2011.

The alleged murder triggered CPC's biggest scandal in recent years resulting in the downfall of Bo, regarded as an emerging leader attempting to revive Maoist hard-line ideology discarded by the party three decades ago in favour of market reforms.

Bo began campaign to resurrect Mao era's revolutionary fervour highlighting the growing rich poor divide due to market economic policies being pursued by the present leadership.

Bo's downfall began early this year, when his close associate and police chief of the city Wang Lijun sought refuge in the American Consulate in Chengdu fearing reprisals from Bo while investigating the case of the Gu's reported involvement in the Heywood murder.

Wang's refuge in the mission of US, regarded as rival nation by Chinese in general has badly affected Bo's image as emerging leader of the party.

He was subsequently sacked from all posts of the party and administration was expected to go on trial himself after CPC disciplinary committee's investigations.

The present set of leaders headed by President Hu Jitao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao were loyalists of moderate leader, Dang Xiaoping, who took charge of CPC after Mao's death in 1976.

The post Mao era also proceeded with the trial of Jiang Qing, known as the head of 'Gang of four' to affectively cleanse the CPC ideology from Mao's hard-line Marxian policies.

Jiang was sentenced to death which was later commuted to life imprisonment later. She however committed suicide in 1991.

Considering the severity of the Chinese law to murder charges, Gu and Zang could face death sentence. It was not clear what ramifications the trial and verdict would have on the course of the leadership transition, which was set in motion last week with the informal meeting of the 370 member Central Committee.

The meeting, not confirmed officially, is being held the resort town of Beidaihe near Beijing to brainstorm about the 18th Party Congress expected to be held in November to select new leadership to replace President Hu and other top leaders.

The Party Congress also was expected to set out the ideological path for the new leaders to follow. Vice President, Xi Jinping, also a follower of Dang's linee, has met various officials intellectuals and academicians to discuss the future course of the party and the country which currently f aced an economic slow down due to global financial crisis.

The trial is expected to be completed in weeks.
K J M Varma in Beijing
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