Gu photo sparks "body double" rumors, censorship

A photo combination reportedly forwarded among Chinese Internet users shows Gu Kailai, the wife of a disgraced politician, at her murder trial, left, and before the trial, raising suspicions that a body double was used during the trial.

A photo combination reportedly forwarded among Chinese Internet users shows Gu Kailai, the wife of a disgraced politician, in court, left, and an older picture of her, raising suspicions that a body double was used in court.
A photo combination reportedly forwarded among Chinese Internet users shows Gu Kailai, the wife of a disgraced politician, in court, left, and an older picture of her, raising suspicions that a body double was used in court.
(CBS News) A pair of pictures circulating among Chinese Internet users has sparked cries that China pulled a switcheroo involving a disgraced politician's wife convicted of murdering a British businessman.

The pictures, seen at left, show the wife, Gu Kailai, in court and in an undated older picture. Gu received a suspended death sentence Monday for killing Neil Heywood in a case that threatened to mire the country's ruling Communist Party in scandal.

"We don't even know for sure that's her in court," Zhang Ming, a political science professor at Beijing's Renmin University, told CBS News. "Many people doubt it. The woman does not look like Gu herself."

The growing speculation over the differences between the two pictures prompted Chinese authorities to block the term for "body replacement" from one of country's popular microblogging services and its biggest search engine, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

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The photo combination identifies the woman in court as 46 years old and from Langfang, China, but no concrete evidence has come to light substantiating the claims, the newspaper reports.

Indeed, the Journal cites state media's reporting of Gu's "dependence" on antidepressants and antipsychotics, which may cause weight gain, as a possible explanation of her change in appearance.

Even people who know Gu can't agree whether the person in court is her:

"It doesn't matter how fat a woman becomes, the shape of her ears will never change," the adopted sister of Gu's husband told the Want China Times, a newspaper in Taiwan, according to the Journal.

"I know her too well," a Chinese journalist living in Canada who covered Gu's husband told the Journal. "That's her."

Additional reporting by Shuai Zhang in the CBS News Beijing bureau

  • Alex Sundby

    Alex Sundby is an associate news editor for CBSNews.com

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