The Party mouthpiece, China Central Television, reverting for a moment to its old tone, broadcast the following fulsome praise from Gu Kailai for the court that heard her murder trial: "This is a just decision, which fully reflects the special respect accorded by this court to the law, and especially its respect for life."
Maybe they thought this was too humorous, or maybe they were afraid of provoking the consciences of their readers, or perhaps it was the result of deeper and more subtle political considerations, but the Party's No. 1 mouthpiece, Xinhua News Agency, deleted this aria of Gu Kailai's from its reports on the trial.
I appreciate the naivete of CCTV, and I respect the wisdom of Xinhua.
I guess that the former's full-text version and the latter's edited version will enter the annals of Chinese legal history alongside the judgment document, to become a rare and hard-to-come-by historical artifact, to be sighed and gasped over and commented on, point by point, by readers and researchers 10 or 100 years in the future.
The judgment document alone is overflowing with emotion and packed full of special features.
In this judgment document, the court surgically separates the principal defendant in the case from her husband, thereby severing any connection between the actions of the defendant and her husband. This requires considerable skill.
You would have to know that the killing occurred only because the murderer and her victim were embroiled in a financial dispute that couldn't be resolved, and that the assets she was protecting were created by, and were held in common by, her and her husband.
You would have to know that the murderer, both in committing the murder and in trying to cover up its traces and avoid the law, made blatant use of her husband's special brand of political power, with its Chinese characteristics.
You would have to know that her husband took the most decisive of measures when it seemed that this crime was at risk of exposure, and changed the job description of a deputy mayor and police chief at a province-level municipality that answers directly to central government, exerting his last gasp of effort to try to save his wife.
But the court appears to have turned a blind eye to the high-level connections of this particular suspect.
It neither interrogated him nor served him with a subpoena, nor did it call him as a witness or make public any of the evidence regarding him. It even removed his name entirely from the list of suspects.
How total was this removal?
Total to the extent that nowhere in the entire judgment document is the name "Chinese Communist Party Politburo member Bo Xilai" mentioned, leaving the reader to believe that the extraordinary magical powers displayed by the murderer are somehow a divine gift with Chinese characteristics, a special capability that she has had since birth.
In the same way that I oppose the implication of innocent parties, I also oppose this deliberate surgery.
Perhaps Bo Xilai is clean as a whistle in his economic dispute with Neil Heywood, and perhaps he has dirty hands. Perhaps Bo Xilai is not guilty of involvement in Heywood's murder, and perhaps he is guilty. But the weighing of these probabilities can't simply be ruled out as a foregone conclusion.
This husband definitely played a role in his wife's crime; this was a collective crime and they perpetrated it as a couple.
Whether or not this suspect is a man of conscience or an evil tyrant needs to be decided by the judicial authorities, according to due legal process, with an investigation, a trial, and a judgment made according to law.
The court has made the error of failing to do its job: they have rushed to a hurried conclusion in this case without fully investigating its wider implications.
So, from this angle, it seems that this court's verdict and judgment in the murder trial of Gu Kailai is illegally protecting Chinese Communist Party Politburo member Bo Xilai.
It is even more dispiriting that the whole affair has happened as momentum builds for the 18th Party Congress. It is profoundly disturbing for the prospects of China's transition from the rule of the Party to the rule of law.
I don't know how to tell fortunes, but I can tell the state of the ocean from a spoonful of seawater.
If what I am foretelling comes true, if my fears become reality, then this judgment document is nothing less than advance notice to reassure any officials at or close to the rank of Bo Xilai who have worries or concerns, that they can aid and abet all manner of lawlessness on the part of their relatives.
To judge from our accumulated experience of the surgery that has been performed here, we have the surefire ability to keep you from harm.
Translated by Luisetta Mudie.
Bao Tong, political dissident and aide to former Chinese premier Zhao Ziyang, is currently under house arrest at his home in Beijing.