The UK has asked China to probe the mysterious death of a British citizen in November in Chongqing whose high-profile Communist party chief Bo Xilai was recently sacked.
The body of Neil Heywood was found in a hotel room in the southwestern city of Chongqing. The cause of death was attributed to alcohol poisoning and his body was apparently cremated without an autopsy.
“Some time after the death of Neil Heywood we became aware of speculation about aspects of the case that may warrant further investigation,” John Gallagher, spokesman for the British embassy in Beijing, told AFP.
“This is a matter for the Chinese authorities. We have raised concerns with them and have asked them to investigate thoroughly.”
The news also comes amid intense speculation over the reasons behind Bo’s ouster. A Wall Street Journal report had hinted that Heywood had links with Bo. Wang Lijun, the former Chongqing police chief, apparently brought evidence to Bo suggesting that Heywood was poisoned, the Journal reported Sunday.
Wang later spent a night at a US consulate and is now subject of a government investigation. Heywood had business links with Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the case it didn’t identify. The report even claimed that Heywood apparently didn’t drink alcohol.
The new developments are making for heavy traffic on Chinese websites and, according to reports, rumours and unsubstantiated information is spreading thick and fast.
According to the BBC, several British nationals living in China told the UK embassy in Beijing of their suspicions about the death. It said that there were media reports that Heywood, who was married with two children, worked as a butler for Bo's son, Bo Guagua, who studied in the UK.
These reports are understood to be untrue, but Heywood and the younger Bo, according to the BBC, have been good friends for some years and met regularly.
The Chinese foreign ministry has refused comment on the issue.