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China high-flyer Bo brought low as trial finally nears
by Staff Writers
Chongqing, China (AFP) Aug 20, 2013

China official who doubted Bo murder case quits: media
Beijing (AFP) Aug 19, 2013 - A senior Chinese forensic expert who questioned the murder conviction of top politican Bo Xilai's wife has resigned one of her positions, state-run media said Monday, just as the date for Bo's trial was announced.

Wang Xuemei -- who openly doubted the ruling Communist authorities' account of the death of British businessman Neil Heywood -- stepped down as vice-president of the Chinese Forensic Medicine Association (CFMA), the Global Times said.

The reason for Wang's timing was unclear, and in a video posted online over the weekend she cited her disagreement with a separate, unrelated case for her decision.

The announcement by Wang, who is also a vice-director at the public prosecutor's office, came as state media said Sunday that Bo -- once one the country's top 25 leaders who headed the southwestern megacity Chongqing -- would face trial for corruption on Thursday.

A guilty verdict is all but certain at the proceedings in the eastern city of Jinan.

Bo's wife Gu Kailai was given a suspended death sentence in August 2012 for fatally poisoning Heywood.

But Wang disputed the Gu verdict, saying that Heywood's heart would have stopped instantly if he had been poisoned but Gu's description of events did not mention this.

The claim of poisoning lacked scientific evidence, she wrote, suggesting that the businessman might have been suffocated instead.

Wang's statement on the issue last year soon disappeared online -- many sensitive items are deleted by official censors -- although copies were posted on overseas websites.

In her resignation video, Wang focused on the case of a student electrocuted at a Beijing subway station in 2010.

In that case the CFMA said Ma Yue fell onto the tracks and authorities declared his death an accident but Wang, holding a photograph of the victim, argued that he must have been electrocuted beforehand.

China politician Bo's son breaks silence over trial
Beijing (AFP) Aug 20, 2013 - The son of ousted Chinese politician Bo Xilai broke a months-long silence Tuesday, saying his father's imminent trial would carry no "moral weight" if it depended on deals struck with his parents to guarantee his well-being.

Bo Guagua, 25, said in a statement to the New York Times that he had been denied contact with his father and mother -- who was convicted of murder last year -- for 18 months.

"I can only surmise the conditions of their clandestine detention and the adversity they each endure in solitude," he said in the statement, published on the newspaper's website.

Bo Xilai -- party chief of the southwestern megacity of Chongqing before he was brought down by accusations that his wife murdered a British businessman -- is due to stand trial on Thursday for bribery, corruption, and abuse of power.

Reports have speculated that Bo Guagua's mother Gu Kailai would testify at her husband's trial on the condition that her son's future welfare would be guaranteed and that his father has also been under pressure to cooperate.

He said in the statement: "If my well-being has been bartered for my father's acquiescence or my mother's further cooperation, then the verdict will clearly carry no moral weight."

He called for his father to be "granted the opportunity to answer his critics and defend himself without constraints of any kind" during his trial which is scheduled to be held in the eastern province of Shandong.

The remarks were Bo Guagua's first public statement since he said in September that allegations against his father were "hard to believe".

Bo Guagua is thought to live in the US and is soon to begin legal studies at Columbia University in New York.

Once one of China's highest-flying politicians, Bo Xilai will find himself in a criminal dock Thursday on trial for bribery and abuse of power in the country's highest-profile prosecution in decades.

His downfall began when a British businessman was found dead in a hilltop hotel room. As the drama finally nears its conclusion, the Communist Party is touting it as proof of its intent to crack down on corruption.

The scandal -- which saw Bo's police chief flee to a US consulate and his wife convicted of murder -- erupted in the buildup to a once-in-a-decade leadership handover that saw Xi Jinping elevated as communist chief in November.

Analysts say Bo's revival of the trappings of Mao-era China -- including mass concerts singing "red" songs -- while party chief in the mega-city of Chongqing alarmed sections of China's top leadership, who saw the campaigns as a brash return to a bygone era of strongman rule.

In Chongqing, winding roads lead to the Lijing Holiday hotel atop the forested Nanshan hill. In one of several villas with sweeping views of the sprawling city, Bo's wife Gu Kailai is said to have poisoned her former business partner Neil Heywood in November 2011.

The hotel still sees a steady stream of wealthy visitors who dine in a rustic restaurant -- but staff denied the existence of the room where court documents say the murder happened.

"There is no room 1605," a hotel receptionist who declined to be named told AFP. "I do not know what you are talking about."

Bo, the "princeling" son of one of China's most revered revolutionary generals, met Heywood when he was mayor of Dalian in the late 1990s.

An English teacher turned business consultant, Heywood cultivated an aristocratic air and became close to Bo as well as his wife, a high-flying lawyer.

He seemed the perfect person to guide their son Bo Guagua as he started studies at a preparatory school in Britain, before going on to Heywood's alma mater of Harrow, and then Oxford and Harvard.

As his connections with Bo and Gu deepened, Heywood reportedly bought an expensive villa in Beijing, and a Jaguar sports car with the licence plate "007".

Bo's family is said to have amassed immense wealth, owning property in France, Britain and the United States, and reports say Heywood helped invest millions overseas.

But as Gu became closer to Bo's right-hand man Wang Lijun -- a flamboyant martial-arts trained policeman who oversaw the politician's mafia crackdown in Chongqing -- Heywood's relationship with her began to sour.

The two clashed over a business deal, according to the official account of Gu's trial. And in a dingy hotel room she plied Heywood with alcohol before pouring a cyanide-based poison into his mouth, the court heard.

When Heywood's body was discovered, he was diagnosed as having suffered a heart attack and quickly cremated.

But the scandal became public early last year after Bo fell out with Wang over the murder, slapping him in the face, according to the court account of Wang's trial, and sacking him.

Shortly afterwards, Wang appeared at the door of the US consulate in the neighbouring city of Chengdu in February 2012, offering stunned diplomats a raft of secrets.

A stand-off ensued before Wang was escorted to Beijing by a top Chinese security official, reportedly because he feared assassination.

As rumours of Bo's imminent arrest began to swirl, he remained defiant, telling reporters in March last year that accusations against him were "sheer rubbish".

"A few people have been pouring filth on Chongqing and me and my family," he said.

But a terse announcement by China's state news agency days later sealed his fate: Bo had been relieved of his post and faced an internal party investigation, spelling the end of his political career.

Even so, it has taken more than a year for him to come to court, reportedly as communist factions jostle over his fate.

Gu and Wang were convicted in carefully orchestrated trials, with Gu handed a suspended death sentence -- usually commuted to life in prison -- for Heywood's murder in August, and Wang 15 years in jail for his role in its cover-up a month later.

Last month Bo was formally indicted on charges of bribery, graft and abuse of power.

Analysts say the trial in the eastern city of Jinan will be short and predictable, with a guilty plea virtually certain and a decades-long jail sentence to follow.

In a statement to the New York Times, the 25-year-old Bo Guagua said he had been denied contact with his parents for 18 months and warned that any horse-trading over his own well-being would mean the verdict against his father "will clearly carry no moral weight".

Timeline of Chinese politician Bo Xilai's downfall
Beijing (AFP) Aug 20, 2013 - Key dates in the downfall of Bo Xilai, a former rising star in China's ruling Communist Party who now faces trial for bribery and abuse of power following a scandal that saw his wife convicted of murdering a British businessman.


- 15: British businessman Neil Heywood is found dead in a hotel room in Chongqing, a sprawling municipality in southwestern China. Authorities rule the cause of death was a heart attack and his body is quickly cremated.


- 2: Bo's right-hand man and Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun is demoted.

- 6: Wang visits US embassy in Chengdu reportedly seeking political asylum.

- 7: Wang leaves US embassy of his own volition.

- 8: Wang is placed on sick leave for stress and over-work. Sick leave is a term often used as a euphemism for a political purge in China.


- 2: State news agency Xinhua says Wang has been placed under investigation, giving no further details.

- 9: Bo publicly defends his wife during a press conference at the annual meeting of China's National People's Congress, or parliament.

- 15: Bo sacked from Chongqing party secretary position, with no reason given for his dismissal.

- 26: British government asks China to investigate Heywood's death. Rumours that Bo's wife Gu Kailai may have been involved begin to circulate.


- 10: Bo is stripped of his position in the Communist Party's powerful 25-member Politburo and the wider Central Committee. Government says Gu is being investigated on suspicion of involvement in Heywood's murder.


- 26: Gu and Zhang Xiaojun, a family employee, are charged with killing Heywood.


- 20: Gu is handed a suspended death sentence for murder. The sentence is usually commuted to life in prison.


- 5: Wang is charged with defection, taking bribes and abuse of power. An indictment quoted by state media said Wang had "known beforehand" that Gu was under "serious suspicion" of murdering Heywood, without taking action.

- 24: Wang is sentenced to 15 years in prison following a two-day trial in which he does not object to charges against him.

- 28: China's state media says Bo is expelled from the party and will "face justice".


- 26: Bo Xilai is expelled from China's parliament, removing his immunity from prosecution.

JULY 2013

- 25: Prosecutors charge Bo with corruption, bribery and abuse of power.


- 18: Bo's trial date set for August 22 at the Intermediate People's Court in the eastern city of Jinan.


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Beijing (AFP) Aug 15, 2013
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