The wife of detained Chinese leader Bo Xilai has accepted murder charges against her while angling for a lighter sentence by informing on the crimes of unnamed others.
Lawyers for Mr Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, and her family retainer Zhang Xiaojun, yesterday accepted the prosecution’s case that she murdered a British friend, Neil Heywood, according to a court spokesman.
The defence lawyers accepted lurid details of how Gu, with Zhang as an accomplice, lured Heywood from Beijing to a hotel in the Chongqing hills where she personally poured poison into his mouth.
“Gu Kailai and Zhang Xiaojun did not offer any objections to the charges of intentional homicide,” said the vice president of the Hefei Intermediate People’s Court, Tang Yigan, in a press briefing last night.
Mr Tang said the court proceedings were over, after just one day, with the verdict and sentence to come at a later date.
Gu and Zhang are all-but certain to be convicted but now appear likely to avoid death sentences.
Mr Tang revealed the intriguing information that Gu was seeking a lighter sentence in return for providing evidence against others.
“Gu Kailai’s lawyer said the defendant was exemplary in informing on the crimes of others,” he said, in a prepared statement after the case.
The revelations of Gu's attempted plea-bargain will further animate what is already a fraught leadership transition, scheduled to begin later this year.
Gu’s husband, Bo Xilai, has been detained at an unknown location for unspecified “serious” violations of Party discipline.
Several witnesses say Gu and Bo had a rocky relationship.
Bo’s detention followed sensational testimony from his former police chief – given to both American diplomats and Chinese officials – that Bo was implicated in financial crimes and obstructed the investigation into the Heywood murder.
The former police chief, Wang Lijun, is also being detained.
Wang's February flight to the US Consulate in Chengdu led President Hu Jintao to personally accuse him of “betraying the country and going over to the enemy”, according to a Chinese security source.
While Wang appears certain to face charges analysts are divided over whether Bo, a powerfully connected politician, will face the criminal system or be dealt with in internal Party proceedings.
Two lawyers closely following the case told the Herald/Age that they believed Bo would “definitely” face charges in relation to economic crimes, covering up Heywood’s murder or some other abuse of power.
The single-day trial was swift even by the standards of Gu, herself a lawyer, who once wrote of the superior efficiency of the Chinese criminal justice system.
It outlined the prosecution case, accepted by the defence lawyers, that Gu arranged for Zhang to personally escort Heywood from Beijing to Chongqing.
It said Gu and Heywood drank alcohol and tea in a hotel in the Chongqing hills, in room 1605, before she poisoned him.
"When Heywood was drunk and vomited and wanted to drink water, she then took pre-prepared poison that she had asked Zhang Xiaojun to carry and poured it into Heywood's mouth, killing him," said Mr Tang.
“This case is a joint crime, [Gu Kailai] is the main perpetrator, and Zhang Xiaojun is the accomplice,” said Mr Tang.
Mr Tang’s statement devoted unusual space to Gu's argument for leniency, in addition to her informing on others.
He cited their lawyers claim that Gu had diminished personal control at the time of the murder; she was motivated to defend the personal security of her son, Bo Guagua, after an economic dispute; and even that Heywood “bears a certain responsibility for the motive of the case”.
Mr Bo’s downfall has greatly intensified the factional, ideological and personal jockeying ahead of the 18th Party Congress later this year.
He seemed likely to rise close to the summit of Chinese politics when he was toppled by an improbably series of events beginning with Heywood's death, on November 13, and brought into the open by Wang's February flight to the US Consulate.
In March Bo gave a defiant press conference, where he warned against going down "the capitalist road", which prompted Premier Wen Jiabao to respond with warnings about a repeat of the orchestrated chaos of the Cultural Revolution.
Bo was sacked from his position in charge of Chongqing municipality the following day, on March 15, and then "suspended" from his Politburo position in April.
But little new official information about Bo's status has been released since.
Mr Bo forged vast networks within the Party, particularly among fellow “princeling” children of revolutionary leaders, and remains as popular among sections of the public as he is reviled by many lawyers and liberal intellectuals.
Yesterday two protestors were detained outside the Hefei People’s Intermediate Peole’s Court after telling foreign reporters that both Bo and Gu had been framed.
- Sydney Morning Herald