Death of British Businessman Linked to Chinese Communist Party Crisis

April 2, 2012 Updated: September 22, 2015

After a call by a former British foreign minister for U.K. police to go to China to investigate the death of British businessman Neil Heywood, speculation about the case is intensifying. 

Mr Heywood died in China in November last year. Labour MP Denis MacShane has called for an investigation that would look for connections between the death and high-level corruption in Chinese politics, according to the Telegraph.

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Mr Heywood had close ties with Bo Xilai, who was a prominent contender for membership of the highest Communist ruling group, the nine man Standing Committee of Political Bureau, but who has recently been ousted.

Mr Heywood was 41 when he died in a hotel room in Chongqing, a megalopolis where Bo was Party Secretary. Bo was popular for his clampdown on the local mafia, although he was accused of using the anti-crime campaign as a cover for purging his enemies and taking their wealth. 

The coroner’s report put the cause of Mr Heywood’s death as over-consumption of alcohol, although Mr Heywood is said by friends to have been practically a teetotaler. His body was quickly cremated.

The U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) say they did not have suspicions about Mr. Heywood’s death at the time. An F.C.O. statement says, “Our Embassy in Beijing and Consulate General in Chongqing provided consular assistance to the family, as we would in any case involving a British National overseas.”

Mr Heywood married Wang Lulu, a Chinese national, after moving to China. Their children are Olivia, 11, and Peter, 7.

The F.C.O. states, “We recently asked the Chinese authorities to investigate the case further after we heard suggestions that there were suspicious circumstances.” This is believed to be in February. On February 6, Wang Lijun, who was effectively Bo Xilai’s deputy, sought protection and spent 24 hrs in the U.S. consulate in Chengdu. 

It is thought that Wang, who was Chief of Police in Chongqing, gave the Americans information about business deals which Mr Heywood had with Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, who had previously headed a law firm.

To deflate such rumours, Bo said at his last public meeting, on March 15, that his wife had given up all business concerns and remained at home to look after family affairs, a sacrifice which he, Bo, was grateful for.

It is believed that Gu is under arrest.

The F.C.O. say they are not going to speculate about officials in the Communist Party. “That is a matter for the Chinese authorities.”

As splits and divisions fracture the CCP, Bo has dropped out of public sight and is believed to be under house arrest. Wang has been denounced by Party leader Hu Jintao as a traitor and is under investigation.

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