China is preparing to put the wife of ousted Politburo member Bo Xilai on trial on Aug. 9 for the murder of a U.K. businessman and will allow British diplomats to attend the proceedings.
Two officials from the U.K. Embassy in Beijing will be given access to the trial of Gu Kailai, according to an official of the mission who spoke on condition of anonymity. China unveiled formal charges against Gu, accusing her of “intentional homicide” in the death of Briton Neil Heywood, the official Xinhua News Agency reported on July 26.
Gu’s prosecution pushes forward the Chinese Communist Party’s case months after the ouster of Bo Xilai, 63, the most serious upheaval in the country’s top ranks since Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang was purged in the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. Bo’s downfall has focused attention on corruption among the Chinese ruling elite and clouded a once- a-decade leadership transition this year.
Authorities have said the trial will take place on Aug. 9, the British Embassy official said. Diplomats haven’t been given an indication of how long the trial will last and the court has not indicated they wouldn’t be able to attend the entire proceedings, he said.
The official couldn’t confirm any details about whether members of Heywood’s family would attend the trial. The presence of U.K. diplomats was earlier reported by Agence France-Presse.
Gu, once a well-known lawyer, will stand trial in Hefei, the capital of eastern Anhui province, according to Xinhua.
Heywood was found dead in his hotel room in Chongqing in November. Gu’s alleged involvement in his death was exposed after Bo’s former police chief in Chongqing, Wang Lijun, went to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu in February bearing evidence she and Zhang had Heywood killed, according to U.S. officials briefed on the matter.
Chinese investigators had initially told U.K. authorities that Heywood died of alcohol poisoning.
“The facts are clear and the evidence is firm and adequate,” Xinhua said in its July 26 report of the charges against Gu. An orderly in the family home, Zhang Xiaojun, was also charged, Xinhua said.
Gu and her son had a financial conflict with Heywood, which led her to believe he was a threat to her son’s safety, Xinhua said.
Bo was removed as Communist Party secretary of the western municipality of Chongqing in March. In April he was suspended from the Politburo and accused of serious violations of Communist Party discipline after the allegations about his wife were revealed.
No formal charges have been announced against Bo, who hasn’t been seen in public since the National People’s Congress in March.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t immediately respond to faxed questions from Bloomberg News today about the trial.
--Nerys Avery. Editors: Jim McDonald, Nerys Avery
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