Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

Bo Xilai purge: Briton’s death adds to intrigue [The Age]


More intrigue to the Bo Xilai purge: how is the increasingly dramatic narrative of the downfall of China’s ‘mafia-fighter’ going to pan out?

”I was mentally prepared that attacking organised crime and expunging evil would affect some people’s interests, and there would be different views…’‘ Bo Xilai

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Briton’s death adds to intrigue
John Garnaut
Source – The Age, published March 27, 2012

THE death of a British citizen in Chongqing has added new intrigue to the downfall of the city’s ambitious Communist Party boss, Bo Xilai, which has rocked China’s political landscape.

Little is known about Neil Heywood, who died suddenly in the city on the Yangtze River in November last year, other than Chinese blog posts and other sources that claim he had provided assistance to Mr Bo’s family.

London has now asked Beijing to investigate ”suspicions and rumours surrounding the death”, a British Foreign Office spokesman told The Age.

Bo Xilai was the most captivating and divisive figure in Chinese politics even before his police chief and right-hand man, Wang Lijun, fled to the US consulate in Chengdu city on February 6.

Mr Wang was a famously tough and merciless cop who helped Mr Bo smash the city’s mafia, placing him in the running for a top leadership position.

But Mr Wang’s relationship with Mr Bo broke down in January after the police chief confronted his boss over a criminal investigation touching on his family, including Mr Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai.

People familiar with the Heywood case have told The Wall Street Journal that Mr Wang told Mr Bo he believed that Mr Heywood had been poisoned, and that Gu Kailai had been involved in a business dispute with the Briton.

It remains unclear what Mr Wang told US diplomats during the day he spent with them, or what he has been telling State Security officials questioning him in Beijing.

But British officials say new information received ”earlier this year” – before Chinese blog posts that appeared and were deleted over the weekend – has prompted them to request further investigation of Mr Heywood’s death.

”We are aware that Neil Heywood died in Chongqing in November and the coroner’s reasons for death was over-consumption of alcohol,” a spokesman for the British Foreign Office told The Age.

”At the time we had no reason to question the authorities’ findings,” he said.

”We are aware of suspicions and rumours surrounding the death. After we were made aware of these suspicions we passed them on to the Chinese authorities asked them to investigate further.”

The Chinese blog posts and other sources say Mr Heywood’s body was hurriedly cremated after his death.

Mr Bo has so far retained his Politburo position but was recently sacked from his Chongqing position after giving a defiant press conference during the annual National People’s Congress.

He ended his performance with a rousing defence of himself and his wife, who he said had closed her successful legal practice 20 years earlier to avoid conflicts of interest.

”I was mentally prepared that attacking organised crime and expunging evil would affect some people’s interests, and there would be different views,” he said, according to Reuters.

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Filed under: 52 Unacceptable Practices, Beijing Consensus, Bo Xilai, Chinese Model, Corruption, Crime, Domestic Growth, Government & Policy, Mapping Feelings, Media, New Leadership, Politics, Reform, The Age, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities

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