20 Apr 2012

China cover-up on UK man's death - journalist

9:11 pm on 20 April 2012

A senior journalist for Chinese state media alleges authorities covered up the murder of a British businessman when they realised he was connected to one of China's top politicians.

Last November, officials in the south-western city of Chongqing said that the 41-year-old businessman, Neil Heywood, had died of a drink-related heart attack.

The journalist says police at the scene immediately knew it was a murder, but panicked when they realised Mr Heywood had dealings with Gu Kailai, the wife of Bo Xilai - a contender for the Communist Party leadership.

Gu Kailai is being held on suspicion of the murder.

Three of the investigators asked to resign, says Han Pingzao, a former correspondent for the People's Daily in Chongqing, who notes: "They were terrified of the politician''.

At this point that former Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun became involved. In January, Mr Wang told his boss Mr Bo that he believed Ms Gu was involved in the murder.

''Bo Xilai was shocked when he heard the details,'' Mr Han said. ''He started sweating profusely.''

Mr Bo - the nearest thing China has to a Western-style politician - made his name in Chongqing with two high-profile campaigns. One cracked down on organised crime, the other was to promote China's communist past.

Mr Wang, who has been closely identified with Mr Bo and his rise - he was tipped to be promoted to the party's top leadership before the scandal - was responsible for the anti-crime campaign.

After half an hour, Mr Bo approached Mr Wang and held both his hands tightly. Mr Wang thought he was safe then, the journalist said, but he was later sacked.

Events surrounding Mr Bo and his wife have become the biggest political scandal in China in years, ahead of a leadership change in Beijing due to get under way in October.

There were ''extraordinary scenes'' on the day that Mr Bo's sacking as Chongqing party chief was announced last month, Mr Han said.