Monday, 20 August 2012

No Surprises Here

Gu Kailai is behind bars... but for how long?
As expected, Gu Kailai was handed a suspended death sentence for murdering Briton Neil Heywood.

While she confessed to the crime, the court said because she had psychological problems and Heywood had supposedly threatened her son Bo Guagua, she was handed the suspended death sentence, though it did not clearly state how long that would be.

Suspended death sentences are basically translated as life in prison, but if someone demonstrates good behaviour he or she may be released earlier.

The Dui Hua Foundation that works on human rights in China believes Gu could serve as little as nine years in prison because after two years she would be eligible for medical parole in seven years.

Meanwhile Zhang Xiaojun, the family aide who was an accomplice to the murder was sentenced to nine years in prison.

The four officers who covered up the crime were convicted, and their verdicts have yet to be announced.

Two British diplomats were allowed to attend the high-profile trial which is a major concession on the part of China as these kinds of court cases are usually held without any outside observers.

And the British embassy in Beijing tried to be diplomatic in its reaction to the sentence.

"We welcome the fact that the Chinese authorities have investigated the death of Neil Heywood, and tried those they identified as responsible," it said in a statement. "We consistently made clear to the Chinese authorities that we wanted to see the trials in this case conform to international human rights standards and for the death penalty not t be applied."

While there was no death penalty, the trial didn't exactly follow the rule of law.

As Law Professor Jerome Cohen of New York University explains, "The story tries to make it look like simply a private matter engineered by Gu without the knowledge, participation or cover-up of her husband [former Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai]. The judiciary is told what to do by the party in cases of importance, like this one."

Now attention focuses on the impending trial of former police chief Wang Lijun and also what has happened to Bo as he hasn't been seen publicly since April.

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