Villain or scapegoat? Gu Kailai faces trial in China
By Benjamin Kang Lim and Lucy Hornby
BEIJING (Reuters) - Cold-blooded killer or scapegoat, China's Lady MacBeth or over-protective mother -- Gu Kailai remains an enigma as she is tried for murder in a case that has shaken the ruling Communist Party and placed its secretive world of political privilege under intense scrutiny.
The wife of ousted Chinese politician Bo Xilai will be tried this week in the central city of Hefei. There's little doubt a pliant court will find her guilty of murdering Neil Heywood, the British businessman who helped get her son into Harrow, the exclusive boarding school, and then into Oxford University.
Her chances of escaping the death penalty rest on the idea that she feared Heywood somehow threatened her son - an argument that many Chinese might find a plausible reason for sparing Gu, a member of the party's red elite.
"She was convinced her husband's political rivals are out to assassinate her husband and son," a source with close ties to the Bo family told Reuters.
The full story of what happened, and why, is unlikely to come out in the party-controlled court or in the media. The suspects have had no chance to comment or defend themselves in a case wreathed in secrecy and innuendo.
Bo's career came to a crashing halt after the top policeman in his power base, the city of Chongqing, fled to the nearest American consulate in February with the claim that Bo had covered up Heywood's murder. Heywood was believed to have been poisoned in a hotel in Chongqing in November.
Within weeks of the allegations emerging, Bo, 62, was ousted from the elite Politburo, sacked from his post as party chief in Chongqing and placed in custody. Gu, in her early 50s, was charged with murder along with a family aide, Zhang Xiaojun.
Many in China however read the whole drama as a classic political purge. Continued...