Allegations to mount against Bo Xilai over British businessman's death


ACCUSATIONS AGAINST disgraced senior Chinese cadre Bo Xilai and his family are set to mount this week, with more findings from the investigation into the death of British businessman Neil Heywood.

There are also likely to be more revelations about the financial affairs of Mr Bo and his wife Gu Kailai, whom the Chinese government said is “highly suspected” of being involved in Mr Heywood’s murder.

The scandal surrounding Mr Heywood’s death has led to the downfall of Communist Party official Bo, who ran the southwestern municipality of Chongqing and looked set for advancement.

The government will be keen to try and keep a lid on any potential fallout from the scandal head of the once-in-a-generation transfer of power later this year.

The Chongqing Daily, the government paper in the municipality of 32 million that Mr Bo used to run, has hinted that he too could face criminal charges.

“People like Bo Xilai and Wang Lijun have violated the law and party discipline . . . and seriously tarnished the image of the country and the party,” the paper said in a commentary.

Even though the political backdrop to the story appears to be an old-style Communist purge, the Beijing government is being careful to be seen doing everything by the book in how it investigates the affairs of Mr Bo and Ms Gu.

President Hu Jintao is pushing for prosecutors to come up with evidence of Ms Gu’s guilt in the murder, but also to unearth proof of wider corruption regarding the couple, said one anonymous source.

The evidence needed to be convincing so as to silence anyone who tried to defend the couple, and protect social stability, said the source. The Xinhua news agency reported how “the central authority’s swift decision embodies its strong will to safeguard the dignity of law”. This could be a veiled reference to the powerful domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang, who is considered Mr Bo’s ally.

Beijing is rife with rumour that the murdered Briton had an affair with Ms Gu.

There is no doubt that it suits many factions within the ruling politburo to see Mr Bo’s downfall. The former Chongqing chief is a former commerce minister, one of the political princelings whose father was a key revolutionary leader.

He made much in public of his efforts to clean up crime on the streets of Chongqing and to push people into more revolutionary fervour, singing Cultural Revolution-era songs and keeping the red flag flying.

Analysts believe this was part of his attempt to get on to the Standing Committee of the Politburo. By staying so high profile, he perhaps figured he would be difficult to remove from the public eye without causing a lot of unwanted attention to the secretive elite.

That all came crashing down after Mr Bo’s police chief Wang Lijun, who led the crackdown on crime, sought asylum at a United States consulate and was subsequently arrested.

Whatever secrets he had, Beijing now had and Mr Bo’s downfall dates from that moment in February.

Mr Heywood’s friends said they had concerns about how he died, and the embassy in Beijing asked China to reopen the case. This was followed by the announcement on Tuesday that the government now think Mr Heywood was murdered and that Ms Gu was “highly suspected” of involvement.

There were lots of rumours of corruption during his tenure as mayor of Dalian in the 1990s, but a journalist who made allegations about graft in the family, Jiang Weiping, was jailed.

Links between officers in the Chengdu military region and Mr Bo are being investigated by the Central Military Commission, which controls China’s armed forces, the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong reported.

Another dimension to the story concerns the whereabouts of the couple’s son, Bo Guagua, who is studying at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

He was named in the reports last week alleging the guilt of his parents and this could suggest that pressure is increasing on him too.