The woman at the centre of China’s most sensational trial in decades, Gu Kailai, has not contested charges of murder, in a court hearing that lasted just a few hours.
Gu, the wife of disgraced politician Bo Xilai will be sentenced at an unspecified later date, along with a woman who worked for her family and who was also charged with involvement with the murder.
Prosecutors alleged that Gu, a flamboyant pioneering lawyer described by her admirers as China’s Jacqueline Onassis, poisoned a British businessman – Neil Heywood – in November 2011.
He was a former friend and business associate of both Gu and her husband. But, after an alleged dispute with him, Gu had apparently become convinced he was a threat to her son. Heywood had been instrumental in getting the son into an English private school.
Outside the court there were mixed views from observers of a case which has shaken Chinese politics.
“She should have been granted the right to pick her own lawyer and she should have been granted the right to defend herself to the media,” noted one man.
“I think she should accept her punishment, after all she committed murder, so she should be treated like anyone else,” said another man who had been in court.
Hong Kong City University professor Joseph Cheng said Gu is unlikely to face the most severe sanction: “The death penalty is probably unlikely in return for her good attitude and for not engaging in an appeal.”
The case is seen by many as politically motivated; part of a push against her husband Bo, an ambitious populist who made powerful enemies.
He was sacked as a regional party leader after his police chief identified his wife as a suspect in the Briton’s death.
The scandal is particularly sensitive given the coming transfer of power to a new generation of leaders this autumn.
Bo is being detained for ‘violating party discipline.’
But some say this court case will affect people’s perception of the party.
“When Chinese citizens learned all the true details of this case, it affected the image of the Chinese Communist Party and the weight the party has in Chinese people’s hearts. This case has affected the legitimacy of the party and how Chinese people view and support it,” said Peking University’s Yang Zhaohui.
The trial of Gu, glamorous daughter of a member of the Communist Party elite, is the most explosive since the conviction of the so-called Gang of Four for crimes during the 1966-67 Cultural Revolution.