This Bystander is starting to wonder which of the few but tantalizing details revealed at Gu Kailai’s brief trial for allegedly murdering British businessman Neil Heywood will open up the can of worms on which the Party is trying to keep a tight lid.
The court heard that Heywood demanded £13 million in compensation from Gu’s son, Bo Guagua, now studying in the U.S., for a failed property investment for which he had been promised ten times that much, and threatened to “destroy” Bo if payment was not forthcoming. The court also heard that former Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun, who triggered the outing of the affair by making the murder allegations to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, allegedly conspired with Gu to frame Heywood with a drugs bust, and then tried to cover up the Englishman’s murder after the event.
The first detail may lay end up laying bare the web of lucrative business dealings engaged in by the country’s powerful politically elite, and their ability to transfer large sums of money out of China. The second pushes the Haywood murder closer to Gu’s husband, disgraced Chongqing Party boss Bo Xilai, to whom Wang was right-hand man and enforcer of the politician’s crackdown on organized crime in Chongqing. Bo, who is now under disciplinary investigation and who has not been seen in public for weeks, is the elephant in the courtroom in this case.
The former would be an embarrassment to the ruling elite, if no more than what most Chinese already assume to be the case. The second is far more awkward. It risks exposing not only political corruption but also the ugly infighting that led to Bo’s ousting, a marked contrast to the veneer of unity that the Party’s top leadership likes to portray.