The Ballad of Gu Kailai
Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported on a major international murder trial:
“China Says Gu Confesses to Murdering Briton“
– Jeremy Page, WSJ, 8/10/2012
It is a story about a woman of attractive innocence, murder, international intrigue, and corruption at the highest levels of government. It is a true story worthy a James Bond movie.
Americans, with all our cynicism about our own government, need periodic reminders that it is still the best form of government on planet Earth. Gu Kailai provides us that reminder.
It took only 7 hours. Gu Kailai was convicted in a Chinese court of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood. She got him into a drunken, alcoholic stupor and then poured cyanide down his throat.
This would be just another ordinary murder except for one thing…
Gu Kailai is the wife of Bo Xilai.
At the time Mr. Bo was one of the most powerful men in Chinese government. He was Communist Party Chief of Chongqing in Southwest China, one of 5 major Chinese political zones. He was a member of China’s Politburo and rumored to be next in line to become part of China’s 9-member Politburo Standing Committee… the innermost circle of Chinese power.
Mr. Bo is in an exclusive class of Chinese. He is the son of one of the Eight Elders of the Communist Party of China and, as such, has special status.
The official government version is that a distraught, mentally troubled Ms. Gu believed her son had been threatened by Heywood over a real estate deal gone sour. Ms. Gu herself has made no public statements, but agreed through her government appointed lawyer to plead guilty.
In support of the case, the government presented evidence of poisoning found in blood taken from Heywood’s heart.
This trial would never have taken place except for Wang Lijun.
At the time of Neil Heywood’s death on November 11th, 2011 it was reported to the British government that Heywood had committed suicide and that his body had been cremated as per his own previous request.
Mr. Wang was one of Mr. Bo’s most powerful local political allies and confidants. Wang is former Chief of Police of Chongquin. He was in charge of the Heywood case.
That would have been the end of it except Mr. Wang and Mr. Bo got involved in a bitter power struggle and Wang feared for his life.
After being demoted and close associates of his were arrested, Wang fled on February 6th, 2012. He took refuge at the United States Consulate in Chengdu 170 miles away. That is where he spilled the beans to U.S. officials during his 24-hour stay.
In the meantime, Mr. Bo had dispatched 70 vans of security police out of his jurisdiction to Chengdu and surrounded the U.S. Consulate. He demanded Wang be turned over to him to resolve an internal matter.
Instead, officials dispatched from Beijing’s central government came and took Mr. Wang into protective custody. He has not been heard from since.
Nobody knows the whereabouts of Bo Xilai or Wang Lijun. Mr. Bo has been removed from power, kicked off the Politburo and out of the Communist Party.
Mr. Bo has not been publicly implicated in the death of Heywood; not in court testimony; nor accused by his wife. Ms. Gu has made no public statements since her and Bo’s arrests.
Everything we know comes from a 3,300 word document released Friday by the Chinese government.
There is more to this story than we will ever know. In repressive forms of government we learn only what governments publish.
Unlike the United States, most countries do not guarantee freedom of the press or free speech.
Our government may be clunky, prone to corruptions and coverups, and just plain inept at times; but it is nothing compared to what happens in China where there is no free speech.
If not for a 24-hour visit to a U.S. Consulate, Heywood’s would only be another sad suicide story; Mr. Bo would be about to enter China’s Politburo Standing Committee; Wang would be permanently disappeared and Gu Kailai would be known only as a Chinese government official’s pretty wife.