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Chinese Police Take Stand in Chongqing Murder Trial

August 10, 2012

by VOA News

BEIJING — Four Chinese police officials went on trial Friday in the eastern city of Hefei for allegedly trying to help the wife of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai cover up the murder of a British businessman.

The four men held senior security roles in the central city of Chongqing while Bo Xilai served as its Communist Party chief. Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, appeared in the same courthouse a day earlier and did not dispute allegations that she poisoned British businessman Neil Heywood.

A statement released by a court official on Thursday said the four police officers were accused “of bending the law to achieve personal benefit,” and covering up Gu’s crime.

Mo Shaoping, a lawyer in China who has defended many human rights cases, said there has been little news about their case.

He says the four probably are charged with a crime that is defined as ‘to distort the law to help one’s family or friend,’ which in China usually applies to people who work in the judiciary system or police or city management. Mo says the harshest possible sentence is 15 years.

A court official named the four as the former deputy chief of Chongqing's Public Security Bureau, Guo Weiguo, the former chief of the bureau's criminal section, Li Yang, and former security officials Wang Pengfei and Wang Zhi.

The four defendants were all under the supervision of Wang Lijun, police chief of Chongqing during Bo Xilai’s tenure of the city. Wang brought the scandal to light with a daring visit to the U.S. consulate last February.

Both Thursday's and Friday’s hearings were closed to most of the media. But on Thursday, two British embassy diplomats attended to, in their words, fulfill “consular responsibilities to the Heywood family."

Lawyer Mo Shaoping said their attendance reflects China’s legal reforms in recent years.

He says the fact that the trial was even partially open, and the two British diplomats were allowed in, is to a certain extent, progess.

The four policemen’s indictments might pave the way for a trial of Wang Lijun, their former boss. Some media reports this week speculated that Wang could stand trial in Chengdu, the city where he entered the U.S. consulate, as early as next week. Xinhua, China’s state run news agency did not provide an update on the policemen’s hearing on Friday.

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