Gu Kailai Case Verdict: A Lose/Lose Proposition for the CCP
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
August 21, 2012
Summary: The verdict in the Gu Kailai case was a forgone conclusion. The wording of the court's decision was exactly what the global media predicted it would be on the 9th, when the court first convened. In recent years the Chinese Communist Party has repeatedly stressed the rule of law. The Gu case should make everyone at Zhongnanhai ashamed. Contrast this with Wen Jiabao's sharp criticism of the "Chongqing Mini Cultural Revolution." If he is forced to swallow his words, it could shorten his life.
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The verdict in the Gu Kailai case was a forgone conclusion. The wording of the court's decision was exactly what the global media predicted it would be on the 9th, when the court first convened.
When the court convened on the 9th, the proceedings were billed as a "public trial." But only politically vetted members of the public and the media were allowed into the courtroom. Therefore it was nothing more than a scripted show. Its writers, directors, and actors were jokes. The Xinhua News Agency reported on the proceedings. Only four or five hundred words had any relevance to the case. The report said Gu Kailai and Neil Haywood had "conflicting economic interests." The report implied that Haywood threatened Bo Guagua with physical harm. This amounted to an advanced "stay of execution." The report mentioned bodyguard Zhang Xiaojun. It explained that "Gu was the chief culprit, Zhang was an accomplice." Since Gu would be spared the death sentence, this amounted to advance notice that Zhang would as well. Zhang Xiaojun has been sentenced to nine years. This too was expected.
This was the trial of the century. The CCP should have ensured a proper trial to showcase the rule of law. Instead the CPP merely showed that it has achieved nothing in the way of judicial reform. Mainland netizens said the trial differed little from the Gang of Four trial 30 years ago. The courtroom was better designed than before. The public was a little better dressed than before. But substantively speaking the proceedings were nearly identical. All that was missing was Jiang Qing bellowing, "Down with Revisionism!" Instead we were regaled with a tacit plea bargain passed off as a "just judgment, showing respect for life, and offering no appeal." It left us with the impression that today's courts are even less honest than they were 30 years ago.
For example, during the proceedings, the court failed to subpoena either Bo Xilai or Wang Lijun. The entire world was witness to this. As we now know, Wang Lijun said he informed Bo Xilai of the facts only after he committed the murder. But why didn't the court ask whether Bo knowingly concealed or covered up the crime? Wang Lijun knew what happened. It is rumored that he kept a sample of Haywood's tissue as "evidence." Why didn't the court ask Wang Lijun why he abused his power and perverted the law? The four police officers who confessed to covering up the crime were sentenced to 5 to 11 years. Whether Bo and Wang will be charged for their crimes remains to be seen. But even if they are, the "Bo case" has been treated as if it were separate from the "Gu case." Worse, the "Bo case" has been reduced to the level of the "Gu case." This is a serious blow to justice. This has made the prosecution of the case a worldwide joke.
Politically speaking, the biggest failure of the CCP was in reducing the "Bo case" to the "Gu case." The relationship between Bo, Gu, and Wang led to Neil Haywood's murder. Wang Lijun's defection to the United States Consulate General did not happen out of the blue. The case has turned the CCP's political baptism into a disaster. It inspired Wen Jiabao to say that "We are still not free from the errors of the Cultural Revolution and feudalism" and that "The historical tragedy of the Cultural Revolution could repeat itself." Wen Jiabao's comments about the "Bo case" were dead on. But the case has been reduced to the level of the "Gu case," to the level of a single case of homicide. This is not merely evasive. It is a travesty of justice. It is widely rumored that Bo and Wang "listened in" on party officials and government officials. Could this be a cover-up?
The Beijing authorities went from aggressively prosecuting the "Bo case," to pulling their punches on the "Gu case." The twists and turns the case took, and the political allowances that were made during the prosecution of the case, are clear to see. The CCP imposes Draconian punishments on ordinary citizens. But it let Bo Xilai off with a slap on the wrist. As an old Chinese expression has it, "Crows everywhere under heaven are just as black." The CPP had to let Bo Xilai off lightly because of his poltiical status. It also went easy on Wang Lijun. This shows that seeking asylum at the U.S. Consulate General works. For 30 years the CCP has been pushing judicial and political reform. This case shows that its reforms were a lie. Both reforms have come to naught. The key is not the severity of the punishments. The key is that politics undermined the search for truth.
In a perverse sense, it is "fortunate" that Gu Kailai murdered someone. Otherwise Bo and Gu would have gotten away with their wrongdoing. Their crimes would have been passed off as "legal." So far Gu has yet to be charged with "economic conflicts of interest." The courts have yet to take responsibility for this. One has to wonder. How many cases under CCP official jurisdiction involve accomplices like Bo, Gu, and Wang murdering someone like Haywood? It is "fortunate" that Wang Lijun sought asylum at the US Consulate General. Otherwise, the Gu Kailai homicide case would have been swept under the rug. Whether Wang Lijun would have been murdered to shut him up is uncertain. The case is remarkable nonetheless. Under the watchful eyes of the world, this case was still handled in this manner. This shows just how bankrupt the CCP is.
This case contains a chilling paradox. The Bo Gu case was possible precisely because the CCP is an authoritarian regime. Suppose Bo Xilai was a democratically elected head of government? Suppose he alleged "judicial persecution?" Would he win or lose in court? It would be hard to say. So far the Bo case has shown that the CCP authorities are afraid to prosecute crimes. The Bo Xilai case shows that their judicial and political reforms are a wash. The case has been a shock to the system. CCP political and judicial reform require harsh review. Reforms cannot wait another 30 years. The clock cannot be turned back 30 years.
In recent years the Chinese Communist Party has repeatedly stressed the rule of law. The Gu case should make everyone at Zhongnanhai ashamed. Contrast this with Wen Jiabao's sharp criticism of the "Chongqing Mini Cultural Revolution." If he is forced to swallow his words, it could shorten his life.