Four Chinese Police on Trial for Covering up Heywood Death

Posted August 10th, 2012 at 12:20 am (UTC-5)
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Four Chinese police officials went on trial Friday in the eastern city of Hefei for allegedly trying to help the wife of Chinese politician Bo Xilai cover up the murder of a British businessman.

The four former security chiefs from the southwestern city of Chongqing are accused of helping to protect Gu Kailai and hiding her role in the suspected poisoning death of Neil Heywood.

Gu did not dispute the murder charge against her during a Thursday hearing at the same courthouse. The closed-door trial ended after just seven hours, with officials saying a verdict will soon be delivered.

As with Thursday's case, independent media were barred from entering the courthouse, which was surrounded by armed guards who blocked the roads surrounding the facility.

Little is known about the four men who went on trial Friday other than that they are accused of “bending the law to achieve personal benefit.” Guo Weiguo, Li Yang, Wang Pengfei, and Wang Zhi all served under former public security chief Wang Lijun, who first revealed the allegations to U.S. diplomats in February.

In Thursday's hearing, a court officials described how prosecutors think Gu, along with a household aide, poisoned Heywood after the two had a dispute over a failed business deal.

Gu is thought to have lured Heywood to a hotel in the southwestern city of Chongqing last November, getting him drunk and poisoning him. It was the first time Chinese authorities disclosed details of Gu's alleged role in the death of Heywood, her business partner at the time.

Gu's husband, Bo Xilai, was a rising star in the Communist party, but was removed as Chongqing party chief after the allegations against his wife surfaced.

The son of a famous revolutionary leader, the charismatic Bo was a top contender for the Politburo Standing Committee, China's top decision-making body, before he was stripped of his posts earlier this year.

China's Communist Party is set to undergo a rare leadership transition later this year. Many Chinese suspect Beijing officials are using the case as a way to wreck his political career.

Joshua Rosenzweig, a Hong Kong-based human rights researcher, told VOA the trial is “par for the course” for China's criminal justice system.

“It's quite unusual for Chinese criminal trials, in my experience, to take longer than a day…the reason why criminal trials tend to be so short in China is because the process is quite structured, you would almost say streamlined.”

Rosenzweig says witnesses rarely appear in court and there is little back-and-forth between prosecution and defense, as is the case in many other countries' court hearings.