China promises 'thorough' investigation into Neil Heywood's death

 

China's ruling Communist Party said today that it is committed to
probing a political scandal that includes an investigation into the
suspected murder of a British businessman, following new appeals from
Britain's senior politicians for a swift investigation that is free from
political meddling.

The statement by the official Xinhua News Agency came hours after Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague both held talks with China's propaganda chief, Li Changchun, during his visit to Britain.

They demanded assurances over inquiries into the November 15 death of Briton Neil Heywood in a hotel in the south western Chinese city of Chongqing that has been linked to the wife of the metropolis' former top official, Bo Xilai.

The appeals are a sign of the extraordinary international links to the dismissal of Mr Bo, who had been among China's most powerful politicians.

The political crisis is China's biggest - and by far messiest - in years.

The scandal was set in motion on February 6, when Mr Bo's former right-hand man, Chongqing ex-police chief Wang Lijun, made a surprising visit to the US consulate in the nearby city of Chengdu.

Mr Wang expressed suspicions about Heywood's death, originally termed accidental, before being taken into the custody of investigators in Beijing. Mr Wang's whereabouts are now unknown.

The party's Central Committee "has made a resolute decision to thoroughly investigate related events and release information in a timely manner, a manifestation of its high sense of responsibility to the causes of the party and the people," the Xinhua statement said.

"Based on the facts made public so far, the Wang Lijun incident is a serious political event that has created an adverse influence both at home and abroad, the death of Neil Heywood is a serious criminal case involving the kin and aides of a party and state leader, and Bo has seriously violated party discipline," the statement said.

Mr Bo was sacked as Chongqing's party secretary on March 15 and suspended as a Politburo member for what were described as serious violations of discipline, possibly including interference in a police investigation or corruption.

Mr Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, and aide Zhang Xiaojun were formally named on April 10 as suspects in the death of Heywood, a long-time resident of China and a friend and business associate of the Bo family. They have been handed over to investigators.

Speculation has focused on the possibility that Mr Heywood was poisoned, rather than dying from excess drinking or a heart attack as was originally claimed.

The scandal has been hugely embarrassing for the country's insular leadership, both in its salacious revelations and in the involvement of foreign political forces. With the proliferation of the internet and microblogging, the leadership has struggled to control the spread of rumours and unconfirmed reports about the involvement of other top leaders.

Mr Bo had been considered a candidate for the party's all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee when new members are picked this autumn, although his political career now seems over.

That has raised new questions about the makeup of the future leadership, although Vice President Xi Jinping remains in place to take over as party leader in the autumn and president next spring.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent