David Cameron 'likely' to raise Neil Heywood case at Li Changchun meeting

 

Prime Minister David Cameron is "likely" to raise the death of British businessman Neil Heywood when he meets a senior Chinese Communist Party official in Downing Street tomorrow, aides said today.

Mr Cameron's talks with politburo member Li Changchun are due to focus on trade, cultural and education links between Britain and China, said Number 10.

But the pair are also likely to discuss the investigation into Mr Heywood's death in the central Chinese city of Chongqing last November.

Mr Heywood, 41, was a friend of the family of Bo Xilai, a former rising star in Chinese politics who served as local party chief in Chongqing but was suspended from the politburo in April amid allegations of "serious discipline violations".

State media reports in China have suggested that investigations by authorities there indicate that Mr Heywood was a victim of homicide.

Unconfirmed reports on Mandarin-language websites over recent days have suggested that he may have died from cyanide poisoning after allegedly having an affair with Bo's wife, the prominent lawyer Gu Kailai.

At the time of his death, Chinese officials said the British expat died of "excessive alcohol consumption".

But friends questioned this, saying the businessman was not a heavy drinker.

In February, Mr Bo's former police chief Wang Lijun sought refuge in the US consulate in China.

It is thought he made a number of claims against the politician and Mrs Gu, including her alleged role in Mr Heywood's death.

According to Chinese state media reports, Mrs Gu and Zhang Xiaojun, an orderly at Mr Bo's home, have been arrested.

Asked whether Mr Cameron planned to raise the Heywood case with Mr Li, a Downing Street spokeswoman told reporters at a regular media briefing today: "It is likely to come up.

"The purpose of the meeting is to strengthen Britain's relationship with China in a range of areas including trade and people-to-people contacts, including such things as education and culture."

Asked what Mr Cameron will say, the spokeswoman said: "I think he will echo what the Foreign Secretary has said, that we welcome the investigation that is ongoing and we look forward to seeing the outcome of that."

Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne met Mr Bo in Chongqing on November 17, three days after the discovery of Mr Heywood's body in a hotel in the city, but is understood not to have raised the issue of his death during his visit, when he was photographed with a panda.

Asked whether Mr Cameron was concerned that Mr Browne did not take the opportunity to raise the case at that point, the Number 10 spokeswoman said: "We were informed of the death of Mr Heywood on November 16 by the Chinese authorities.

"We became more concerned following suggestions from the business community, and we asked the Chinese authorities to launch an investigation. We acted as soon as we thought the concerns about the case justified it, and we are now pleased that the Chinese have launched an investigation."

Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said it was "very curious" that Mr Browne had not been informed at the time of Mr Heywood's death.

He said the Government needed to explain why it took officials so long to raise the case with the Chinese authorities.

"There is a British businessman with what were well-known high-level political and commercial connections who dies suddenly in a hotel bedroom and is cremated almost immediately," he told BBC Radio 4's The World At One.

"I would have thought those circumstances would at the very least have triggered an inquiry as to whether or not all of that explanation was credible.

"Our Government has a responsibility towards its citizens, even if like Mr Heywood they have chosen to make their home, along with their family, in China."

While Sir Menzies said it was important that Mr Cameron raised the issue at tomorrow's meeting, he questioned whether the truth would ever come out.

"I doubt very much that the Chinese government is going to set up a public inquiry with a retired high court judge chairing it and have all its proceedings in public," he said

"There are a lot of questions here. I'm afraid to say not all of them may be answered."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Arts and Entertainment
James Hewitt has firmly denied being Harry’s father
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley ((C) Red Productions/Ben Blackall)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - OTE £30,000

£13000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Assistant

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Maintenance Assistant is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?