UK Seeks Probe in Chongqing Death

The U.K. has asked China to open an investigation into the death last year of a British businessman with potential ties to the family of Bo Xilai, the latest twist in the drama surrounding the dismissal of the former Chongqing party chief. The man, Neil Heywood, was found dead in his Chongqing hotel room in November and authorities cremated the body without an autopsy after claiming he had died of “excessive alcohol consumption.” From Reuters:

“We have recently asked the Chinese authorities to investigate the case further after suggestions that there were suspicious circumstances involved in his death,” a Foreign Office spokesman in London said.

He said the office was “aware of rumours and speculation related to the case” but did not necessarily give them credence.

A spokesman for the British embassy in Beijing said Britain had been told Heywood had died from over-consumption of alcohol.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Heywood case may shed more light on the downfall of Bo’s former police chief, Wang Lijun, who disappeared in February amid rumors of an attempted defection:

Mr. Wang claimed to have fallen out with Mr. Bo after discussing his belief with his boss that Mr. Heywood was poisoned, people familiar with the case said in interviews with The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Wang also claimed that Mr. Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, was involved in a business dispute with Mr. Heywood, according to one of those people.

The British Embassy spokesman declined to comment on private discussions with other governments, or to specify whether British authorities asked for the fresh investigation as a result of Mr. Wang’s visit to the consulate.

He said that British officials asked Chinese authorities to re-examine the case “in the early part of this year” after suspicions about the case were brought to the Embassy’s attention by members of the British community in China.

“We have raised this with Chinese authorities and urged them to investigate it fully,” the spokesman said. “The response was that they would take it forward,” he said, adding that Chinese officials hadn’t made clear what action they would take, or when, regarding the Heywood case.

March 25, 2012 8:04 PM
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Categories: Politics