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Bo Xilai implicated in Briton's murder
Publication Date : 20-09-2012
Purged Chongqing boss Bo Xilai has been implicated for the first time in a murder committed by his wife Gu Kailai, which suggests the disgraced politician could face criminal charges and jail time.
The official Xinhua news agency, in a report yesterday about the trial of Wang Lijun, said Chongqing's former police chief had told "the Chongqing party committee's main responsible person at the time" about Gu's role in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood last November.
It is clear that the unnamed person is Bo, said several observers. "There's no mistake about it. It cannot refer to anyone else but Bo Xilai," said Renmin University analyst Zhang Ming.
Wang was rebuked and slapped in public by the person, according to Xinhua. The incident, which took place in late January this year, led Wang to have a change of heart about covering up the murder for Gu.
His surprise flight to an American consulate in Chengdu on February 6 blew the lid off China's most sensational scandal in decades and embarrassed the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) ahead of its leadership transition expected in a few weeks.
The latest report indicates that the CCP is likely to press criminal charges against Bo for covering up his wife's role in the murder last November over money disputes, said Professor Zhang.
Beijing lawyer Mo Shaoping, who also believes the reference is unmistakably to Bo, said those convicted of covering up a crime could face up to 10 years in jail.
The latest development could quash talk that Bo, who was sacked as Chongqing party boss in March and suspended from the Politburo a month later, would face only punishment for "serious breaches of party discipline".
He had never been mentioned in Xinhua reports about the scandal nor during Gu's murder trial last month, which saw her convicted and sentenced to death with two years' reprieve.
But some observers believe the CCP would still be lenient with Bo, partly in light of his princeling background. His father was a vice-premier.
They note that Xinhua did not mention him by name, possibly because the party is still deciding what to do with him.
Said Hong Kong-based analyst Joseph Cheng: "The statement is still vague enough not to implicate him. It did not name him or say that he had instructed Wang Lijun to cover up the murder."
Wang, 52, stood trial this week accused of defection, taking bribes, abuse of power, and "bending the law for selfish gains" in covering up the murder.
The 6,227-word Xinhua report quoted him as saying that he had agreed to cover up Heywood's murder because Gu had been good to him and he did not want to offend the boss. But things changed after he reprimanded his subordinates for attending a meal hosted by Gu to thank them for help to cover up her crime.
"I believe word got back to Gu, who changed her attitude towards me. She was less friendly and more wary," said Wang, who did not say why he scolded his staff.
He began to fear for his safety after several subordinates were placed under unnamed investigations. The slapping incident was a turning point, which led him to decide to reopen the case and collect evidence against Gu.
But contrary to previous reports, the Xinhua account suggested that Wang did not tell the US diplomats about Gu's crime when he sought political asylum.
He only claimed his personal security was threatened because of his investigation of criminal cases. He told Chinese officials about Gu's crime only after he left the US consulate, Xinhua said.
"This could be a deliberate move to mitigate Wang's possible punishment," said University of Chicago analyst Dali Yang.