BEIJING -- Gu Kailai, the wife of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai, and one of her aides were formally charged with the murder of a British businessman, the official New China News Agency reported Thursday.
Gu and her aide, Zhang Xiaojun, were arrested in April on suspicion of poisoning Neil Heywood, an expatriate in China with business ties to the Bo family.
The news agency reported that Gu was concerned about threats by Heywood against her son, who was not fully named in the report but is thought to be Bo Guagua, a recent graduate of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.
“Worrying about Neil Heywood's threat to her son's personal security, [Gu] Kailai along with Zhang Xiaojun, the other defendant, poisoned Neil Heywood to death,” the report said.
The scandal over Gu’s alleged role in Heywood's homicide and Bo’s ouster has roiled the ruling Communist Party, which is scheduled to embark on a once-in-a-decade leadership transition later this year.
Bo, the former party chief of Chongqing, had previously been pegged for one of the country’s top nine positions. But the charismatic leader’s career unraveled earlier this year when his police chief tried to seek political asylum in a U.S. consulate.
The attempt blew the lid on a web of intrigue in Chongqing, a teeming metropolis in western China where Bo consolidated power by conjuring the fervor of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
Bo, who was sacked in March, has not been seen or heard from since. Thursday’s state media report made no mention of him.
Gu and Zhang are set to be tried in Hefei, the capital of central Anhui province. No date was disclosed.
Photo: Bo Xilai led a Maoist revival campaign in Chongqing, which was a factor in his downfall as the city's Communist Party chief. Credit: Andy Wong / Associated Press.