PHNOM PENH — A French architect detained in Cambodia for several weeks has flown to Shanghai where he is wanted for questioning in connection with the biggest political scandal to hit China in decades.
Patrick Devillers was initially arrested here following a request from China where authorities are engaged in the high-profile investigation of disgraced politician Bo Xilai and his wife Gu Kailai.
Chinese authorities are believed to be interested in questioning Devillers about his relationship with Gu Kailai, who is under investigation for last year’s murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.
Cambodia authorities detained Devillers on June 13, but did not charge him with any crime. Authorities say he was taken to Phnom Penh International Airport on Monday night where he boarded a flight of his own free will.
In Paris, Alexis Berthier, the assistant spokesperson for the French ministry of foreign affairs told VOA that Devillers chose to go to China after consulting with lawyers and Chinese authorities, but French diplomats were not present for the meeting.
"He made his decision about going back to China after discussions with the Chinese authorities. He informed us that he received some guarantees about what would be going on once he gets to China," said Berthier. "So after this what we can do as the French diplomatic corps is that we can guarantee that he gets full consular protection while he is there."
Berthier said he could not comment if Devillers was under duress when he made the decision, and was not able to say whether or not Devillers would be under some sort of detention while in Beijing.
Ray Leos is a local political commentator and Dean of Communications at Pannasastra University here in Phnom Penh. He said Devillers late night flight should not come as a surprise while his fate will be monitored closely from abroad.
“Well it remains to be seen but I will say that by all indications Mr. Devillers left of his own accord of his own free will. With regards to Cambodia and China over the last 20 years or so they have had a very close relationship,” said Leos.
Devillers had lived in the city of Dalian in the early 1990s when Bo was mayor and is believed to have had business ties with the politician who had been a rising star in the party.
The scandal surrounding Bo, the former leader of the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing, first broke several months ago when Bo was stripped of his post as Communist Party secretary in Chongqing and later his wife placed under arrest.