Thursday, July 26, 2012
BEIJING (AP) — The wife of ousted Chinese politician Bo Xilai and a family aide have been charged with the murder of a British businessman, the government said Thursday, pushing ahead a case at the center of a messy political scandal that exposed divisions in China's leadership.
The official Xinhua News Agency reported that the prosecutor's indictment said Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, had a falling out with Briton Neil Heywood over money and worried that it would threaten her and her son's safety. Gu and the aide, Zhang Xiaojun, are alleged to have poisoned Heywood together, the report said. Heywood's death in November was attributed initially to a heart attack or excessive drinking.
The brief report is the first official news that the case against Gu is proceeding since the announcement three months ago that she and Zhang were being investigated and that Bo was being suspended from the powerful Politburo for unspecified discipline violations. The Xinhua report did not mention Bo's case or a separate party investigation into Bo.
In a sign that the release of the news was carefully controlled to minimize public discussion, Xinhua's report was not mentioned on state broadcaster China Central Television's nationwide evening news program.
On the Internet, the Xinhua report was carried on official mainstream news sites but any mention of it appeared to have been scrubbed off popular microblogs, where Bo and his wife's names remain banned search terms. Commenting was disabled on most sites that carried the Xinhua report, while other webpages only allowed comments in support of the prosecution.
The scandal exposed the bare-knuckled infighting that China's secretive leadership prefers to hide and affirmed an already skeptical public's dim view about corrupt dealings in the party.
Before his ouster, Bo was one of China's most powerful and charismatic politicians. The son of a revolutionary veteran, Bo was seen as a leading candidate for a position in the Politburo Standing Committee, the highest ranks of power, when a younger group of leaders is installed later this year.
On his rise, Bo led high-profile campaigns to bust organized crime and to promote communist culture. In doing so, however, his administration ran roughshod over civil liberties that angered some leaders and alienated others with his publicity seeking.
Gu and Zhang were charged in the eastern city of Hefei, Xinhua said. It did not say when exactly the indictment was issued or when the crime occurred and why the case is being prosecuted in Hefei and not in Chongqing, the metropolis Bo ran as Communist party secretary and where the couple lived.
Prosecutors have interrogated Bo and Zhang and have "heard the opinions" of their defense lawyers, Xinhua said.
"The facts of the two defendants' crime are clear, and the evidence is irrefutable and substantial. Therefore, the two defendants should be charged with intentional homicide," the report said.
The report referred to Bo's wife as "Bogu Kailai," an unexplained combining of their last names. It did not name their son, but they have only one, Bo Guagua.
The scandal was sparked by Bo's police chief Wang Lijun's shocking visit to a U.S. Consulate in the nearby city of Chengdu in January, where he is thought to have told the Americans about Bo's transgressions and his concerns over Heywood's death.