Beijing’s pending prosecution of deposed Politburo member Bo Xilai and the recent murder conviction of his wife, Gu Kailai , have again brought China’s criminal justice system to world attention. Having detained Bo in March, not until October did the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection turn him over to the state prosecutors for indictment.
Posts Tagged ‘ Gu Kailai ’
International Human Rights Day is always a good time to take China’s temperature. This year, the country is especially feverish. Amazingly, 63 years after the People’s Republic was established, populous and powerful China still has no effective means of enforcing the rights enshrined in its constitution. Yet, once again, new Communist Party leaders reignite hopes for bringing government and the party under the rule of law.
Just 40 years ago, as my family and I were completing a very pleasant and productive academic year in Japan, we had our first opportunity to visit China. We had been waiting to do so for more than a decade. For me, the highlight of the visit was a four-hour dinner conversation with Prime Minister Zhou Enlai.
In 1998, Gu Kailai, already a successful lawyer married to then rising political star Bo Xilai, published a book about the American legal system. She praised the mainland’s swift and certain death-penalty prosecutions of alleged murderers, in contrast to the lengthy, exhaustive scrutiny that capital prosecutions are subjected to in American courts. Gu undoubtedly never thought that she might become a world symbol for the failings of the country’s criminal justice.
In China, as elsewhere, famous cases enhance popular understanding of the legal system. Just a year ago, when Beijing police detained noted Chinese artist Ai Weiwei incommunicado for 81 days, they exposed national and foreign audiences to their unlawful abuse of “residential surveillance.” Now, the Communist Party has subjected Bo Xilai, Chongqing’s deposed Party secretary, to the party disciplinary procedure of “shuanggui” (literally “double designation”), bringing public attention to another extra-legal, widely-feared type of incommunicado detention with an innocuous name. The simultaneous confinement of Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, on murder charges illustrates a third type of incommunicado detention, one authorized by law until the newly-revised criminal procedure law (*CPL) takes effect January 1, 2013.