Risk of public sympathy may save Gu Kailai from death
By Gillian Wong ,AP
August 20, 2012, 12:22 am TWN
BEIJING -- A fallen Chinese politician's wife who confessed to killing a British businessman is due to hear the verdict Monday in her murder trial and Communist Party leaders might have decided against a death penalty for fear it could incite public sympathy for her.
The conclusion of Gu Kailai's trial will be a step toward closing a scandal that has rocked the Chinese leadership at a sensitive time when it is preparing to hand over power to younger leaders. But even after the verdict is announced, questions will remain over the fate of her husband, Bo Xilai, a prominent figure who was dismissed in March as party secretary of the major city of Chongqing.
Gu is accused of killing Briton Neil Heywood, a former Bo family associate, after a dispute over money and state media claim Heywood threatened her son. A family aide has been charged as an accessory. State media say Gu confessed to intentional homicide, for which the penalty ranges from 10 years in prison to death. One option is a suspended death sentence that can be commuted later to a long prison term.
Chinese courts regularly impose death sentences for murder, rape and some nonviolent crimes.
Any ruling will be politically delicate, and Chinese leaders might have decided to impose a lengthy prison term instead of death for fear a more severe penalty might stir outrage or give Gu the image of a scapegoat for her husband's misdeeds, political and legal analysts say. The party says Bo was removed due to unspecified violations.