Published July 28, 2012
BEIJING – The wife of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai has agreed to be defended by two government-appointed lawyers in the murder case against her, two different lawyers with knowledge of the case said Saturday. Her decision could be the latest sign that a resolution to her case is near.
Gu Kailai's lawyers are based in Anhui province, where her trial is to be held. It is hundreds of kilometers (miles) from Chongqing city, where Gu is alleged to have killed a British businessman and where her husband, Bo Xilai, was the Communist Party boss until earlier this year.
A lawyer close to the case said Gu and her family have accepted the court appointment of Anhui lawyer Jiang Min, a director of the provincial lawyers' association, as her defense lawyer, along with a second lawyer, Zhou Yuhao of Wuhu, another Anhui city.
The lawyer did not want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the case. Another lawyer with knowledge of Gu's case, also speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Jiang would represent Gu but did not know the name of her second lawyer.
Jiang and Zhou could not be reached for comment Saturday.
The government announced Thursday that Gu and a family aide had been charged with murdering Neil Heywood, a British businessman with whom the Bo family had close ties. Chinese authorities are now also expected to quickly move ahead with the trial, which has overshadowed preparations for a once-a-decade political transition later this year.
Bo had been expected to be part of the transition until a fall from power earlier this year after his former police chief fled to a U.S. consulate and divulged suspicions that Gu was involved in Heywood's death. Three months ago, the government announced that Gu and Zhang Xiaojun, the family aide, were being investigated and that Bo was being suspended from the powerful Politburo for discipline violations that were not detailed.
Bo remains under a separate, party investigation for unspecified wrongdoings. There have been no clear signals yet on what China's leaders plan for him.
Also unclear is why Gu's case is being heard in the central city of Hefei when Heywood died in Chongqing. But there are precedents for trials of politicians to be held in cities outside their power bases. The 2008 corruption trial of former Shanghai party boss Chen Liangyu was held in Tianjin.
Carl Minzer, a China law and governance expert at the Fordham Law School, said Gu's acceptance of government-appointed lawyers may indicate behind-the-doors negotiations.
When announcing the charges against Gu and Zhang, Xinhua made clear the government considers the verdict a foregone conclusion. "The facts of the two defendants' crime are clear, and the evidence is irrefutable and substantial," the report said.
If found guilty of intentional homicide, Gu and Zhang face punishment ranging from more than 10 years' imprisonment to life in jail or the death penalty.
Probably in preparation for Gu's trial, French architect Patrick Devillers arrived in China last week from Cambodia, where he had been living. Devillers reportedly knew Gu and Bo when Bo was mayor of the northeastern city of Dalian in the 1990s. Devillers told French diplomats that he was traveling to China to assist in an investigation.
Associated Press writer Didi Tang contributed to this report.