The details concerning the legal case involving Gu Kailai (谷開來), wife of Chinese politician Bo Xilai (薄熙來), poisoning UK businessman Neil Heywood may be extremely confusing, but following a short seven-hour trial, everyone — including the accused, the defense lawyer, the prosecutors and the judge — were in agreement as to what had transpired. This is perhaps something that could only ever happen in China, or at least something that could only ever be concocted in China.
On the surface, the murder of a British businessman in China may seem somewhat unrelated to the concerns of Taiwanese businesspeople. However, they share one thing in common: They are all businesspeople trying to obtain the special privileges necessary to run their enterprises in a dishonest society that is not administered according to the rule of law. In such an environment, their safety and rights are not guaranteed the protection they would otherwise enjoy in a society under the rule of law.
The official Chinese version of events is that Heywood and Gu had a conflict of economic interests and that Heywood threatened Gu by saying he would ruin her son, Bo Guagua (薄瓜瓜), if he did not receive money he felt he was owed. Accordingly, Gu then killed Heywood to protect her son.This version suffers from a lack of evidence and it is illogical and full of holes. It also clearly shows how life China is run by the laws of the jungle. Its government and people are not honest, the rule of law is worth nothing and business is conducted in a chaotic and arbitrary manner.
Gu is not only a very wealthy woman married to a former political strongman, she has also been touted as a “famous” lawyer in China who claims to have won court cases in the US. If Gu’s husband was so powerful at the time, why did she put herself at such risk? It is normal for the rich in China to use large sums of money to escape any trouble they may find themselves in, but they very seldom resort to killing people. What’s more, lawyers are experts at fighting battles with the law and using judicial means to solve problems. So why on earth would Gu, a lawyer, go and murder someone?
Heywood was a businessperson who made money by pandering to the politically powerful to win their approval. Businesspeople are generally skilled at bargaining, and making and losing money are all part of doing business. It is my guess that when things still looked good for Bo Xilai politically, Heywood would not have minded making a little less money or even losing some. You would not have expected him to be so short-sighted and threaten the personal safety of Bo Xilai’s son.
China lacks the honesty, democracy and rule of law that a capitalist system needs to function properly. Its system encourages and even normalizes political manipulation in the business arena. This is how China has become the “world’s factory” and the world’s second-largest economy. However, we really need to think about what sort of place China is when the wife of a senior Chinese official would murder somebody over an economic conflict.
With British businesspeople meeting this kind of fate in China, Taiwanese businesspeople cannot trust President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement and other similar empty promises he has made. We must be wary of the huge risks and dangerous traps laid by the Chinese.