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China presses offensive against Bo Xilai with police trial

posted 10 Aug 2012, 03:30 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 10 Aug 2012, 03:31 ]

Security remains tight in the eastern Chinese city of Hefei as China tries four police officers on charges of trying to cover up the killing of which Gu Kailai was accused.

HEFEI, ANHUI PROVINCE, CHINA (AUGUST 10, 2012) (REUTERS) - China pressed ahead with an offensive against ousted politician Bo Xilai on Friday (August 10), a day after the murder trial of his wife, with a separate prosecution of four police officers on charges of trying to cover up the killing that she was accused of.

The dismissed officers went on trial for "bending the law to show favouritism" by shielding Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, from an inquiry into the death of Briton Neil Heywood, state media reported.

Security remained tight outside the Hefei Intermediate People's Court in eastern Anhui province, where both Gu and the four police officers were tried.

Gu stood trial for poisoning the businessman over a business dispute, after which the ex-leader's wife became convinced Heywood was a threat to her son, Bo Guagua, a court statement said.

She did not contest the murder charge during Thursday's (August 9) seven-hour, closed-door trial hearing and a verdict will soon be delivered, the statement said.

Heywood's death in November and its alleged cover-up in Bo's stronghold of Chongqing, the southwestern municipality he ran, was central to the torrent of events that toppled him from the Politburo and exposed the ruling Communist Party to its worst upheaval in decades.

Some local residents in Hefei said Gu should be punished for her crime.

"After all, she killed another person, it is a fact. That person is dead. It is the truth, not fabrication. No matter who she is, she has broken the law. Everybody is equal before the law," said a 40-year-old resident who identified himself as Kong.

The legal noose is tightening fast on Bo's wife and police involved in investigating the murder case, suggesting there is a danger Bo could himself face charges of masterminding a cover-up and could risk a lengthy jail term.

A Beijing resident surnamed Zhang said that she was glad to see that even the elite in China are not immune to legal punishment.

"I think this is evidence that the process towards democracy in China is speeding up. First of all, the ordinary people never thought that such a high government official would ever be put on trial. But this time, they were put on trial and that has made the hearts of us ordinary people very happy and much more confident in China," she said.

But 32-year old office worker, with last name Wang, was more skeptical.

"Regarding this political event, I personally find it difficult to tell. I mean, Gu Kailai herself is a career lawyer. From my own observation, I can't make a decision on whether it really did happen like that or if it's purely an event to push a political agenda," he said.

Chinese media stuck to the terse official account of Gu's trial on Friday (August 10), despite avid public interest in this scandal that has exposed the fusion of wealth and privilege in China's political elite, and exposed rifts in the party.

"There was no mention of Gu Kailai's husband, Bo Xilai. There was no mention of the corruption, money laundering businesses and so on. The case focused on her intention to protect her son. And in fact, she was said to have secured credit for exposing public security officials who attempted to protect her, and therefore violated the law," said Joseph Cheng, a professor of politics at Hong Kong's City University.

The trial, which went "according to script", was considered to be a smooth success for the Chinese Communist Party, Cheng added.

The 63-year-old Bo has not been a focus of the proceedings so far. But most experts believe the trial and almost certain conviction of his wife Gu and the four police officers is a prelude to his punishment, which could include a criminal trial.