China’s social media lit up on Monday after a court in Anhui province handed down a death sentence with reprieve to Gu Kailai, wife of former Politburo member Bo Xilai, in the case of murdered British businessman Neil Heywood, Financial Times reported. Many on Weibo contrasted Gu’s sentence – effectively commuted to life imprisonment – with the death sentence given to Xia Junfeng, a street vendor accused of murdering two “city management” officials. “The public reaction [to the verdict] illustrates how much harder it is for the Communist Party to frame events in the same top-down way it used to,” said Jonas Parello-Plesner, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. The court said it reprieved the sentence for two years because Heywood had threatened Gu’s son and because she seemed mentally impaired. “The judgment is fair. It shows special respect to the law, to reality and to life,” Gu said of the verdict, according to a court statement.
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