Sentence of Bo Xilai's wife reduced to life in prison
GU KAILAI, the wife of former Chinese political heavyweight Bo Xilai, has had her suspended death sentence for murdering a British businessman commuted to life imprisonment.
Gu, now 57, was condemned to death with a two-year reprieve in 2012 for poisoning Neil Heywood, who had been close to the Bo family, over a monetary dispute.
The Yancheng prison in Hebei province, where Gu is serving her term, applied last year for her penalty to be reduced.
The Higher People's Court of Beijing said in a statement dated Friday that it had commuted her punishment to life in jail, Agence France-Presse reported.
The prison said Gu "had made disciplinary demands on herself", passed the tests on "ideology, culture and technical skills" and "completed labour assignments in time".
The Beijing court said Gu was "eligible for the legal conditions for a commutation" since she "committed no further crime" while incarcerated.
A suspended death sentence is typically commuted to life in prison in China.
Gu's case triggered the scandal that brought down her husband Bo, then party chief of southwest Chongqing city, and exposed deep splits in the ruling Communist party before the generational handover of power in 2012.
Bo was tipped to be a candidate for China's all-powerful Politburo until the allegations against his wife felled him.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power in 2013.
Bo's security chief Wang Lijun - who fled to a United States consulate, reportedly seeking asylum - was imprisoned for 15 years in 2012 for defection and covering up Gu's killing of Heywood, among other offences.
Former railway minister Liu Zhijun, who was given a suspended death penalty in 2013 in a separate corruption scandal, also had his sentence commuted, the Beijing court said.
Responses by netizens in Weibo, China's most popular microblogging site, towards Gu's news were generally cynical.
"It's better to be an elite official in China, as poisoning would not lead to death penalty even if the murder involves hundreds of millions of yuan, unlike poisoning by ordinary people over petty issues," wrote one netizen, referring to the hanging of a university student Lin Senhao on Friday for poisoning a roommate in 2013.
"How could you commit any crime when you are incarcerated? And why should this be a condition for commutation?" asked another.
Lawyer Gao Peng wrote on Weibo: "Legal significance is less important in such cases with a deterrent effect."