Bo Xilai and Gu Kailai attend the funeral of Bo's father Bo Yibo in 2007. The couple were reportedly already estranged by this point. (Internet photo)
The Japanese-language newspaper Yukan Fuji reported on Friday that Japanese political commentator Keisuke Udagawa had an exclusive interview with the former Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai on April 26 in Beijing, in which the disgraced politician vented his deep regret for not divorcing his wife Gu Kailai, who is suspected of murdering the British businessman Neil Heywood, reports our sister newspaper China Times.
Bo has not been seen in public since being dismissed from his positions in Chongqing in the middle of March. He was suspended from his remaining senior positions in the Communist Party in April and while state media have reported that Bo is undergoing investigation for "severe violations of discipline," little else is known about his current status besides rumor, making Udagawa's report a veritable scoop if genuine.
Udagawa has personal connections with Bo going back some 15 years. A law expert and political commentator with the Japanese-language news portal Yamato Press, he formerly worked for Japanese chain supermarket group MYCAL. When MYCAL entered the Chinese market in the 1990s, Udagawa was in charge of the group's legal affairs in China.
In 1997, Udagawa met Bo, then mayor of Dalian in Liaoning province in the country's northeast, while his lawyer wife Gu Kailai was hired as a legal consultant for MYCAL. Udagawa has kept in touch with Bo and Gu since then.
Udagawa says Bo and Gu discussed getting a divorce in 2000 and he was the mediator between them at that time. The couple finally agreed to stay together though they have reportedly been estranged in recent years.
Following Bo's dismissal as Chongqing party chief in March, China's national security bureau asked Udagawa to assist with their investigation into Bo's family. Udagawa demanded a meeting with Bo as part of the deal. Authorities eventually permitted him to dine with Bo, but no recording or photographs would be permitted.
In April, Udagawa dined with Bo at a private room at a hotel near Tiananmen Square in Beijing together with two translators, including one from the national security bureau, while two police officers stood outside the room. Peking duck, chicken, fish and abalone were served.
Udagawa said Bo seemed tired but also mild and peaceful. Bo denied most of the scandals that have been reported about himself and crucially denied that his downfall was because of internal struggles within the Communist Party hierarchy. He said instead that he had been set up as a result of taking on powerful vested interests in his campaign against corruption and crime in Chongqing.
"I cracked down hard on corruption and criminal practices while I was the party secretary of Chongqing, removing some city officials who were involved with criminal syndicates. Some people hated me for this. They used their remaining power to get back at me on account of my wife. I was framed by their plot," Bo told Udagawa during the meal, remarks which were later quoted by Yukan Fuji.
Bo did not deny the report that Gu had Heywood killed due to a financial dispute and said he regretted not divorcing her back in 2000. "I should have divorced her then," he told Udagawa. Bo said he did not agree to a divorce at that time due to consideration of his political future and their son Bo Guagua.
Udagawa said the day he met Bo was the same day that Ichiro Ozawa, the former chair of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party, was declared innocent of accepting illegal political donations. Bo reportedly told Udagawa, "I will make a comeback like Ozawa," Yukan Fuji said.
Bo Xilai 薄熙來
Gu Kailai 谷開來
Bo Guagua 薄瓜瓜