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Hong Kong watches unfolding of Bo Xilai case

posted 27 Jul 2012, 04:12 by Mpelembe   [ updated 27 Jul 2012, 04:13 ]

Hong Kong residents and political analysts watch the case of deposed Chinese politician Bo Xilai unfold, after his wife is charged with the murder of UK businessman Neil Heywood.

HONG KONG, CHINA (JULY 27, 2012) (REUTERS) - The scandal of deposed Chinese politician Bo Xilai has gripped the former British colony of Hong Kong, after Bo's wife, Gu Kailai was charged with the murder of a UK businessman.

On Thursday (July 26), China charged Bo's glamorous wife, Gu, with poisoning expatriate Neil Heywood last year in a proceeding that lawyers expect to end swiftly with a conviction and lead to a life sentence or possibly her execution by lethal injection.

At a Hong Kong bookshop known for its political literature, shop employee Joyce Lau said that books about Bo Xilai and his wife were top sellers among people from mainland China.

"Very popular in our shop and very good sales. And mainly people from mainland China will buy the books of Bo Xilai because it's a very hot topic amongst them, but they cannot get the information of Bo Xilai easily in mainland China," she said.

Political observers have said a failure to forge a unified stance on handling the divisive Bo case could affect the Communist Party's focus on working out the leadership changes that will be decided at the upcoming congress.

Bo, the 62-year-old party chief of Chongqing before his dismissal, was widely seen as pushing for a spot in that new leadership until the scandal was brought to light by his former police chief, Wang Lijun.

But Hong Kong City University's politics professor, Joseph Cheng, said that the Communist Party must be seen to be dealing with the international incident properly.

"Chinese authorities would like to show that the rule of law is being practised in China, even the wife of an important leader is treated equally like everybody else before, in front of the law. And of course at the same time the Chinese authorities would like to get this issue out of the picture, well ahead of the Party Congress, so it will seem not connected, not related to the leadership succession process," said Cheng.

Gu and Zhang will face trial in Hefei, a city in eastern China, far from Chongqing, the sprawling municipality in the southwest where Bo made his political base and where Heywood died in a hillside hotel in November.

Bo has not been named as a suspect in the murder case, but he is separately under investigation by party authorities and could also face trial at a later time.

"The trial will reveal issues of corruption that the Bo family, that the Gu Kailai family has amassed a large fortune, some of the investments overseas had been handled by this British businessman. And therefore it will create an uproar, a bad impression on the part of the domestic public who sees of evidence of very high level and very serious corruption. So we're not too sure how open the trial will be," Cheng said, adding that Gu could get a lighter sentence on grounds of ill health.

Gu's trial is likely to start on August 7 or 8 in Hefei, a city in eastern China, far from Chongqing -- a decision in keeping with a tradition of holding sensitive politically charged trials in a different judicial region.

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 but enjoys a high degree of autonomy and freedoms under a 'one party, two systems' rule.