Bloomberg News

U.K. Presses China for Truth, Justice in Heywood Death Probe

April 17, 2012

Chinese Communist Party official Li Changchun listens as British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during their meeting at Downing Street in central London. Photographer: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Chinese Communist Party official Li Changchun listens as British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during their meeting at Downing Street in central London. Photographer: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Prime Minister David Cameron’s government called on China to ensure that its probe into the death of British businessman Neil Heywood uncovers the truth and justice is done.

Heywood, 41, died in Chongqing on Nov. 14. Chinese authorities said April 10 that Gu Kailai, the wife of former Chongqing Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai, is suspected of murdering Heywood. Gu, along with her son, Bo Guagua, had a “conflict over economic interests” with Heywood, the official Xinhua News Agency reported the same day.

The U.K. has asked China to investigate the circumstances of the death, after originally being told Heywood died from alcohol poisoning. Heywood’s death has touched off the biggest political upheaval in China since the 1989 Tiananmen Square student protests and comes ahead of a once-a-decade Communist Party leadership transition later this year.

“We now wish to see the conclusion of a full investigation that observes due process, is free from political interference, exposes the truth behind this tragic case and ensures that justice is done,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a written statement to Parliament in London yesterday.

Raised With Chinese

Cameron raised the matter at a meeting with Chinese Politburo member Li Changchun at his central London office yesterday. Cameron told Li he welcomed the investigation and that the U.K. is ready to help, the premier’s office said in an e-mailed statement. Li told him “the case was being examined by the judiciary in full accordance with the rule of law.”

In a commentary released late last night, Xinhua said the Bo probe “serves as a declaration to all Party members that no matter what position one holds, Party members shall never place themselves over Party discipline and the law.”

The commentary said the party’s Central Committee will “thoroughly investigate related events and release information in a timely manner.”

Under the investigation, police in China are investigating a Chongqing official who allegedly helped arrange and then cover up Heywood’s murder, the Financial Times reported yesterday, citing “officials and insiders familiar with the investigation,” whom it did not identify.

Provided Poison

The report said that Xia Zeliang, identified as the Communist party secretary of Chongqing’s Nan’an district, allegedly provided the poison to kill Heywood and deployed staff from him district to guard the area. Nan’an is the location of the hotel where Heywood was killed, the Financial Times said.

Hague later told lawmakers in Parliament the British government will pursue the case “extremely carefully but vigorously.” He said he planned to hold his own talks with Li.

Hague said in his written statement that Britain “will continue to engage with the Chinese authorities on the progress of the investigation and we stand ready to provide any assistance necessary.”

Foreign Office “officials will remain in close touch with Mr. Heywood’s family as this investigation proceeds.” Heywood’s Chinese wife holds a valid U.K. visa, Hague said.

Hague said a junior Foreign Office minister, Jeremy Browne, who visited Chongqing and met Bo Xilai on Nov. 16, was unaware of the case as “ministers are not routinely told about the death of British nationals or other consular cases as they are so numerous.”

The foreign secretary said diplomats were first made aware on Jan. 18 of rumors within the British expatriate community in China that there might have been suspicious circumstances surrounding Heywood’s death. He said he first instructed British diplomats to call on China to investigate on Feb. 7 and listed four occasions in February and March when U.K. officials raised the issue with the Chinese authorities.

Bo was suspended from his top Communist Party positions on suspicion of committing “serious discipline violations,” Xinhua said April 10.

To contact the reporters on this story: Eddie Buckle in London at ebuckle@bloomberg.net; Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at jhertling@bloomberg.net


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