The wife of disgraced former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai (薄熙來) would only agree to provide evidence against him at his trial if a deal was reached to protect their son, two sources familiar with the situation said.
Bo, a charismatic former senior leader of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) whose ambitions to join the country’s apex of power were dashed last year, goes on trial on Thursday, charged with corruption, accepting bribes and abuse of power, in China’s most divisive and dramatic case in almost four decades.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) will be keen to put the trial behind him as he pushes major economic reforms ahead of a closed-door party plenum next month or October, where he will need unstinting support from the party, sources close to the leadership have said.
A deal in which Bo can be swiftly convicted and sent to jail, sparing him a death penalty and with no repercussions for his son, could be in the interests of both sides, sources say.
Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai (谷開來), and his police chief, Wang Lijun (王立軍), have both been jailed over a scandal stemming from the November 2011 murder of British businessman Neil Heywood in Chongqing.
Bo was fired in March last year and has not been seen in public since. Their son, Bo Guagua (薄瓜瓜), remains in the US, where he is preparing for his first year at Columbia Law School in New York.
Media reports have suggested that Gu could appear as a witness for the prosecution and may have already provided evidence against Bo.
A source familiar with the situation, who declined to be identified citing the sensitivity of the matter, said there was only one way Gu would agree to work against her husband — to protect the younger Bo.
“Gu loves Bo very much and the only way for her to provide any evidence against Bo would be because some deal to protect their son has been struck,” the source said, without elaborating on what form that could take.
Another source said prosecutors would not have indicted Bo if they did not have adequate evidence against him.
“Gu Kailai does not have to testify for the trial to proceed. Bo Xilai and Gu Kailai share a goal: to protect their son from being held responsible” by Chinese authorities for any possible wrongdoing, the source said.
At her trial in August last year, Gu admitted to poisoning Heywood and alleged that a business dispute between them led the Briton to threaten Guagua, according to official accounts published by state media.
Calls to Bo’s government-appointed lawyer Li Guifang (李貴方) went unanswered.
Li Xiaolin (李肖霖), a lawyer who has represented Gu’s family in the past, said he did not know if Gu would be called to give evidence against Bo.
“Nobody will know for certain if Gu will appear until the day of the trial,” Li said.
Meanwhile, a senior forensic expert who questioned Gu’s conviction has resigned one of her positions, the Global Times said yesterday.
Wang Xuemei (王雪梅) — who openly doubted the authorities’ account of Heywood’s death — stepped down as vice president of the Chinese Forensic Medicine Association (CFMA), the newspaper said. The claim of poisoning lacked scientific evidence, she wrote, suggesting that the businessman might have been suffocated instead.
The reason for Wang’s timing was unclear, and in a video posted online over the weekend she cited her disagreement with the case of a student who was electrocuted at a Beijing subway stop in 2010 for her decision. In that case, the CFMA said the student fell onto the tracks and authorities declared his death an accident, but Wang, holding a photograph of the victim, said that he must have been electrocuted beforehand.
“I cannot tolerate that the name of Wang Xuemei and an academic organization that produces such ridiculous and irresponsible conclusions be associated,” she said in a copy of the video posted on YouTube.
Wang is also a vice director at the public prosecutor’s office.
Additional reporting by AFP