In an apparent attempt to stifle objections and put an end to a highly sensitive case for the party, authorities also told Gu’s family members that they would be allowed to see her in less than 20 days as long as they did not appeal her case, said a person with knowledge of the discussion within Gu’s family.
The offer was conveyed before Monday’s sentencing hearing, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisal.
According to that person, authorities also told the family that both Gu Kailai and Zhang Xiaojun, a family aide, will be sent to Beijing soon to serve their prison sentences near their families.
According to two witnesses, Gu and Zhang both said in court they will not appeal their case.
Gu’s case and the spectacular downfall of her ambitious husband threw China’s ruling leaders into a political crisis earlier this year, amid a sensitive once-in-a-decade leadership transition in China. It revealed deep fissures within the party’s secretive higher echelons between supporters of Bo and those backing his competitors.
Many party experts believe top officials will want to fully resolve the scandal, including the fate of Bo and his former lieutenant Wang Lijun, before the leadership transition begins this fall.
According to the official news agency Xinhua, the sentencing hearing lasted 20 minutes. And in a very short piece of footage on state-run television, Gu was shown in court saying, “I feel the verdict is fair and just. It reflects comprehensively the special respect of our court to the law, reality and especially to life.”
The suspended death sentence means that if Gu does not commit further offenses in the next two years, her sentence will likely be downgraded to life imprisonment. At the court hearing in the city of Hefei on Monday, Zhang was sentenced to nine years in prison.
He Zhengsheng, a lawyer representing Heywood’s family, said, “We respect the verdict of the court.” Heywood’s family has not expressed an opinion on the outcome, he said, but plan to discuss it with their lawyer later this week.
A person with ties to the familyalso described in detail on Monday for the first time the testimony that Bo Guagua, Gu’s son, wrote on behalf of his mother. The court did not use the son’s testimony, the person said, though the family gave it to Jiang Min, Gu’s court-appointed attorney.
“In the testimony, Bo Guagua asserted he didn’t meet Heywood and did not engage in anything with Heywood in recent years,” the person said.
Another person close to the family and familiar with the case confirmed the details about Bo Guagua’s testimony, saying, “In his testimony, Bo Guagua cleared up the hearsay about his mother and Heywood, which is not true.”