BEIJING, July 27 (UPI) -- Gu Kailai, wife of disgraced party official Bo Xilai, will face trial in a regular criminal court in the death of a British businessman, Chinese officials said.
The New York Times said political observers suggest Gu is being used to deflect attention from her husband, who had once been considered a likely candidate for top leadership but has not been heard from since he was ousted from his post in March amid reports of corruption and conflicting economic interests.
Gu was charged Thursday with intentional homicide in the poisoning death last year of Neil Heywood. The announcement suggested she was allegedly trying to protect her son in some manner, the newspaper said. The Times said Gu could face the death penalty.
"Throughout Chinese history, whenever there's a political struggle, whenever someone has to fall, they blame the wife," said Hung Huang, whose mother, Mao Zedong's former English tutor, spent two years under house arrest after she was accused of collaborating with the Gang of Four.
Bo was not named in the announcement of Gu's charges. The omission implies Bo is unlikely to be implicated in Heywood's death, The Times said Friday.
"They have to handle this in a way that protects Bo Xilai's reputation," said Susan Shirk, a former State Department official who teaches at the University of California, San Diego. "They don't want all the dirty laundry of elite politics to be aired because they really don't know the potential threat posed by Bo's followers."