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Ahead of Bo Xilai trial, a top China forensic scientist quits

August 19, 2013|By Barbara Demick
  • The politically charged trial of Bo Xilai is scheduled to begin this week.
The politically charged trial of Bo Xilai is scheduled to begin this week. (Andy Wong / Associated Press )

BEIJING -- One of China’s top forensic scientists has resigned after posting a scathing criticism of the legal system in a video in which she claimed evidence in many cases is fabricated.

Wang Xuemei’s resignation Sunday came days before the politically charged trial of Bo Xilai, the purged politician who had been a rival to current President Xi Jinping. Wang last year publicly challenged the government’s carefully scripted murder case against Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, who was convicted of poisoning to death a business associate.

Wang’s resignation sent ripples through the legal system and raised doubts about Bo’s upcoming trial, which is scheduled to open Thursday in Jinan.

Wang, 57, held the title of vice director of the Chinese Forensic Medicine Assn. and of the Supreme Court’s prosecutorial research center. Photogenic and a prolific blogger, she was something of China’s version of Dr. Henry C. Lee, the celebrity forensic scientist in the U.S.

"I’m disgusted with the ridiculous and fabricated conclusions of China’s forensic scientists. After 30 years of hard work in this business, I have seen the truth. … My only option is to quit,’’ she explained on a video released Sunday on a Chinese website, Kuliu.com.

The video has since been deleted, mostly likely because of its political sensitivity.

In the video, Wang skirted clear of politics, referring specifically only to one case -- that of a university student who was electrocuted after falling from a subway platform in Beijing in 2010. Police had ruled the death accidental, although Wang said an injury to the jaw showed that the student had been attacked.

Although it was not mentioned in Sunday’s video, Wang seemed to refer obliquely to last year’s trial of Gu, convicted of murder in the death of Neil Heywood, a 41-year-old British expatriate who had business dealings with the family.

The only Chinese official to publicly question the case, Wang wrote on her blog last year that there was not enough cyanide in Heywood’s body to have killed him, as the prosecution claimed, and that the body didn’t show the mottled signs of cyanide poisoning.

The sensational poisoning case was used to discredit Bo and to remove him as a potential obstacle to Xi’s ascension to the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party at last year’s 18th party congress.

“Her resignation obviously is related to the Bo Xilai trial. I’m sure she was under tremendous pressure because she had questioned publicly the forensics in the case last year,’’ said Han Deqiang, an economist at the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, who is one of Bo’s more outspoken supporters.

"She is a very upright and straight-forward person,’’ added Li Xiaolin, a Beijing defense attorney also involved with last year’s murder trial.

Li said there were countless criminal cases in China that had relied on dubious forensic evidence. He pointed to the case of a young man in Fujian province who has been on death row since 2008 after being wrongfully convicted of poisoning a family who had eaten squid at his restaurant.

"The forensic evidence was false and the defendant will be freed very shortly,’’ Li said.

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Twitter: @BarbaraDemick

barbara.demick@latimes.com

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