Bo Xilai wife Gu Kailai 'does not contest' murder charge

Bo Xilai and Gu Kailai

Murder trial of ousted Chinese politician's wife is over after just one day – but is all as it seems?

LAST UPDATED AT 15:54 ON Thu 9 Aug 2012

GU KAILAI, dubbed 'China's Jackie Kennedy', has chosen not to contest the allegation that she murdered British businessman Neil Heywood at a trial that lasted just one day.

Gu is the wife of Bo Xilai, a powerful Chinese politician whose career as a Communist Party boss came to an abrupt end earlier this year amid a scandal surrounding Heywood's death.

The prosecution alleged that Gu (pictured above with her husband and son) had been involved in a business dispute with Heywood and killed him after he had threatened the personal safety of her son.

Following the one-day trial in the Chinese city of Hefei, a court official told reporters that Gu had been accused of poisoning Heywood on 13 November 2011 at the Nanshan Lijing Holiday Hotel, where they had been drinking tea and alcoholic drinks.

"After Heywood became intoxicated, vomited and asked for a drink of water, she poured a poison into his mouth that had been prepared beforehand and that she had given to [her aide] Zhang Xiaojun to bring along, causing Heywood's death," said the official.

A verdict is yet to be announced, but both Gu and Zhang face a possible death penalty if found guilty.

However, critics have raised questions about the transparency of the trial to which no foreign media were given permission to attend.

Supporters of Gu told the BBC that the defendant should have been allowed to choose her own lawyer rather than accept one appointed by the court.

Glenn Tiffert, an expert on Chinese law at the University of California, Berkeley, said ahead of the trial that an alleged confession by Gu would have been made "under considerable duress" of the sort that would call into question the credibility of the confession in the US system.

Meanwhile, friends of Heywood fear his alleged threat to Gu's son has been invented to help her escape execution. They do not believe he would have threatened the family and least of all Bo, to whom he was closest. "He is not the person who has been portrayed - some kind of sleazeball," one friend told The Guardian.

Many critics have commented that there is little doubt that the trial will be political. Kerry Brown, head of the Asia programme at Chatham House, said: "There is no way on this planet her trial outcome will not, finally, be signed off at politburo level." · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.