Date set for China murder trial

The murder trial of the wife of ousted Chinese politician Bo Xilai will start next Thursday, lawyers have said.

Gu Kailai and a family aide - Zhang Xiaojun - have been accused of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood, a close associate of the Bo family.

The date is a sign the case is advancing before China's once-a-decade political transition later this year.

The murder case is at the centre of a political scandal that has highlighted factions in the Chinese leadership ahead of the power handover to a younger generation of leaders.

Mr Bo was once considered a strong contender for a seat on the all-powerful, nine-member Politburo Standing Committee.

Mr Heywood's death was initially ruled accidental, but murder suspicions surfaced after the police chief who served under Mr Bo, then the party chief in Chongqing city, made a surprise visit to a US consulate, where he apparently divulged information allegedly linking Gu to Mr Heywood's death

Mr Bo was sacked from his position in March. He is under party investigation for unspecified discipline violations. No formal charges have been brought against him.