After the wife of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai was arrested for murder on Thursday, the state is getting ready for its highest profile criminal case in years, and while it really wants to project an image of fairness, nobody's buying it. An editorial in the state-run Global Times newspaper (and syndicated across the Chinese media, according to The Guardian's Tania Branigan) insisted Gu Kailai, who's accused of murdering family friend Neil Heywood (above, left), would get a fair trial, writing that "a trial held according to law will strengthen the Chinese people's confidence in the country's legal system." But that image of fairness will likely appear in the state media only. As The Washington Post's Keith Richburg reports, Gu's family and friends say they and her lawyers have been kept from her since she was taken into custody in April. Her trial could start in as little as 10 days, according to the The Associated Press's Gillian Wong, who notes that the decision over what happens to Gu and family aide Zhang Xiaojun, who's also been charged with Heywood's death, has most likely already been made: "'For a case that's this high profile, the state has a very clear idea of how they want it to come out,' said Carl Minzer, a China law and governance expert at the Fordham Law School, who is currently in Beijing." And that outcome will most likely be a conviction: "The facts of the two defendants' crime are clear, and the evidence is irrefutable and substantial," state-run Xinhua wrote.
With the Communist Party Congress due to pick a new leader this fall, the government wants to dispose of this criminal matter as soon as possible. "It's pretty clear that they wanted to get the Gu Kailai case out of the way before the party congress," Boston University China expert Joseph Fewsmith told Reuters. So while the state may want this process to look fair, it's more important that it get finished conclusively—and fast. Gu faces the death penalty or, at the very least, 10 years to life in prison.