27 Jul 2012

Wife of the Disgraced Chinese Leader Bo Xilai Is Charged With Murder

In a nation that prefers the wives of political leaders to be bland adornments, Gu Kailai was positively fluorescent. Married to Bo Xilai, the Politburo member whose downfall earlier this year is still shaking the Communist Party, she reveled in her brash, ambitious ways. "This public announcement is just to further discredit Bo, to ensure that he will not rise from the ashes, which is still a possibility." Admirers bragged that Ms. Gu, a pioneering lawyer who spoke fluent English, was China’s answer to Jacqueline Onassis.

gu and bo

But in formally charging her on Thursday with the poisoning death late last year of a British businessman, the Chinese government, almost certainly intentionally, has placed the larger-than-life Ms. Gu into a familiar Chinese framework: the conniving, bloodthirsty vixen whose hunger for money derailed her husband’s promising career.

Although no one has presented any compelling evidence to rebut the official narrative that Ms. Gu, 53, played a role in the death of the businessman, many wonder if party leaders are using her case to deflect public disgust over the kind of corruption and abuse of power that critics say was embodied by her husband. Mr. Bo, who was suspended last April from the Politburo and has not been heard from since, has so far remained in a parallel justice system reserved for the party elite. His fate was not mentioned in the brief statement announcing his wife’s trial.