BEIJING - Chinese web users posted angry reactions to Gu Kailai's suspended death sentence on Monday, with many saying she was given special treatment as the wife of a former political leader.
More than a million posts on Gu could be seen on Sina Weibo - a microblog similar to Twitter, which is banned in China - after she was found guilty of murder but spared immediate execution on Monday.
"Bigwig gets death sentence with reprieve for murder, while common people get immediate execution. Where's the justice?" posted one user of Sina Weibo, China's most popular microblog.
"If a well-planned murder doesn't deserve a death penalty, then what other criminal deserves immediate execution?" demanded another of the court's decision to give Gu a suspended sentence with a two-year reprieve.
The large number of posts suggested China's censors had relaxed restrictions that had been in place since the wife of former leader Bo Xilai was first placed under investigation in April for killing a British businessman.
Searches for Gu's name had been blocked under the online censorship system known as the Great Firewall of China, but on Monday it was possible to search under her name, and censors appeared slow to delete even critical posts.
As the wife of a high-profile Communist party leader, Gu had been expected to be spared execution, especially after state media reported that she killed British businessman Neil Heywood to protect her son from unidentified threats.
Suspended death sentences are typically commuted to life in prison in China, but the actual length of time served varies.
Political analysts say her trial would have been carefully stage-managed to minimise embarrassment for the party, and her husband's name was never mentioned in connection with the charges against her.
Beijing's efforts to block online discussion of Bo and Gu have been strenuous, reflecting the huge sensitivity of the case ahead of a power handover due to start later this year.
Microblogs have become wildly popular with members of China's booming middle class, who often use the site to share news stories. Sina says it has at least 350 million registered users, mostly in mainland China.
China executes more criminals than the rest of the world combined, according to rights group Amnesty International, although the actual number of people the country puts to death remains a state secret.
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