The murder charges against Gu Kailai, wife of former prominent Chinese party chief Bo Xilai, have captivated Chinese and Western audiences alike. Here is everything you need to know about the major players in the case:
Who is Bo Xilai?
Bo is a former member of the Chinese Politburo, the group that oversees the Communist Party of China, and a former head of the Communist Party in Chongqing, a major city in Southwest China. He’s the son of Bo Yibo, one of Mao Zedong’s revolutionary allies, and he was in line for a promotion to the Party’s Politburo Standing Committee.
“Bo’s public troubles began Feb. 6 when his former police chief and onetime right-hand man, Wang Lijun, entered the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu and, according to Xinhua, made allegations about the death of [a] Briton, Neil Heywood. Wang told American diplomats that the Briton was murdered,” reported The Washington Post’s Keith Richburg, citing Xinhua.
Police concluded that Heywood’s death was a homicide, and Bo was removed from his post.
“The allegations against Bo’s wife mark the first time the downfall of a senior leader has been linked to a premeditated homicide,’ said Jin Zhong, a longtime China watcher in Hong Kong and editor of Open magazine,” Richburg wrote .
Who is Gu Kailai?
Gu is an accomplished lawyer, and her father was Gen. Gu Jingsheng, an early revolutionary who served as party chief in Xinjiang.
After weeks of interrogation, Gu confessed, according to a report from CBS. Neither she nor Bo has been seen in public for months.
What did she do?
There are differing reports about what exactly happened and why, but it seems that Kailai and her co-defendant, Zhang Xiaojun, poisoned Heywood.
“Xinhua, quoting unnamed investigators, alleged that Gu and Zhang poisoned Heywood after Gu and Heywood had a business conflict that also involved her son. The report said Gu believed Heywood was threatening her son.”
Reuters has reported that Gu killed Heywood to cover up her plans to move money to international accounts:
The wire said Gu “asked Heywood late last year to move a large sum of money abroad, and she became outraged when he demanded a larger cut of the money than she had expected due to the size of the transaction,” citing “two sources with knowledge of the police investigation.”
“She accused him of being greedy and hatched a plan to kill him after he said he could expose her dealings, one of the sources said.”
There was no mention by Xinhua of the fate of Bo because it’s uncertain how deeply he was involved.
Neil Heywood was a 41-year-old British business consultant.
Though his ties to the couple are murky, he apparently met and befriended Bo and his wife in the ’90s when he moved to China from England. By some accounts, Heywood helped Bo’s son gain admittance to a prestigious school in England, according to the New York Times.
Though he held a number of different jobs, for several years he ran Heywood Boddington Associates, a consultancy for British businesses in China, the Times reported. For a time after his death, he became so infamous that Chinese censors blocked searches of his name.
Heywood’s body was found in a Chongqing hotel room Nov. 15, and police initially said he died of heavy drinking, but the body was cremated before an autopsy could be performed.
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