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The Gu Kailai Trial And The Never-Ending Search For Closure At China Happy Hour

(August 19, 2012, New York) Yanzhong Huang writes in the Council of Foreign Relations' website that the murder trial of Bo Xilai's wife Gu Kailai ended with a local Chinese court delivering a suspended death sentence for her killing of a British citizen Neil Heywood. While Gu only received a two-year reprieve for the execution, anybody with some knowledge of the operation of the Chinese officialdom knows that this is tantamount to life in prison. Provided "good behavior" during her imprisonment, Gu could be released after serving fewer than a dozen years. Gu was apparently satisfied with the verdict. It is ironic, of course, that she demonstrated no respect for the law by taking another person's life, but is now praising the court for showing "immense respect for the law, reality and life."

What does the Gu trial tell about the rule of law in China? It would be interesting to compare Gu Kailai's trial with the trial of the Gang of Four in 1980. On the positive side, Chinese society is becoming increasingly mature. Three decades ago Chinese people just wanted the four radical leaders to be executed as soon as possible and thought the government was too lenient toward the four "evildoers." By contrast, people today were concerned about whether Gu could receive a fair trial - indeed, supporters of Gu showed up outside the court questioning the trial process.

On the negative side, aware that the trial put a spotlight on China's political and legal systems, the central leaders hoped to use this opportunity to boost the regime's credibility and to showcase China's progress in the development of its legal system. But the trial ended up not only laying bare some major legal flaws it also showing the fundamental absence of social capital (i.e., trust in the government) in China. One scholar I recently spoke with noted that the government was unable to produce a good, convincing story out of Gu's conviction, and "a high school student could tell a lot of contradictions in the details of the trial." Some Chinese netizens even suspected that the defendant on trial was not Gu herself. Gu's mental status and Mr. Heywood's threats to Gu's son were used to justify a lenient sentence, but none of these "facts" could be verified independently.

This month, Golden Networking's China Happy Hour ( will invite a number of journalists who have followed the trial, conviction and suspended death sentence of Gu Kailai, the wife of purged Chinese leader Bo Xilai, in close detail, for the panel "The Gu Kailai Trial" moderated by its founder Edgar Perez. There will be time afterwards for Q&A and the best China networking in New York City.

China Happy Hour will be held Tuesday August 28th, 6PM; these receptions have been known to attract executives and professionals not only from China but also from South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, and India, among other nationalities.

China Happy Hour New York City, featured in The New York Times, is produced by Golden Networking (, the premier networking community for business executives, entrepreneurs and investors. Panelists, speakers and sponsors are invited to contact Golden Networking by sending an email to