China’s most sensational trial in three decades has ended with a suspended death sentence being delivered against the wife of a fallen Politburo member.
Gu Kailal is now likely to face the rest of her life in jail for fatally poisoning British businessman Neil Heywood last November.
The verdict was in no doubt as she’s confessed to the killing, but the court in the eastern city of Heifei showed leniency ruling that she was mentally unstable.
Gu thanked to judges saying the outcome fully respected the “law and life”. In her defence she had argued that Heywood had threatened the life of her son.
Gu could still face execution if she commits a new offence over the next two years, but such suspended sentences are almost always commuted to long jail terms.
The case has led to the downfall of her husband Bo Xilai, one of China’s brightest political stars, however many people feel unmoved.
“There are many corrupt senior officials nowadays, and they also indulge their families in corruption. They must be severely punished,” said one man in Beijing.
Another who did not want to be identified suggested Gu received a lighter sentence because of her husband’s connections: “I think it is just political struggle, it has nothing to do with we ordinary people. The 18th Party Congress is coming very soon, it must have something to do with that.”
Britain’s embassy in China said in an emailed statement that it welcomed the “fact that the Chinese authorities have investigated the death of Neil Heywood and tried those they identified as responsible”. It added that Britain had asked the Chinese authorities not to apply the death penalty.