News / Asia

Slain Briton at Center of Chinese Scandal a Spy

A combination of two photographs shows British businessman Neil Heywood (L), May 26, 2010, and Gu Kailai, wife of China's former Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai.
A combination of two photographs shows British businessman Neil Heywood (L), May 26, 2010, and Gu Kailai, wife of China's former Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai.
VOA News
A major U.S. newspaper says it has found evidence that a British businessman murdered by the wife of Bo Xilai, once one of China's top politicians, was working as an informant for Britain's spy agency, MI6.

The Wall Street Journal said Tuesday its investigation found that Neil Heywood was providing MI6 information on the Bo family for more than a year before he was murdered last November.  The investigation was based on interviews with British officials and friends of Heywood.

VOA Crossroads interview with China scholar Steve Tsang
VOA Crossroads interview with China scholar Steve Tsangi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X


Timeline of the Bo Xilai Scandal

2012
  • February 2: Bo's key ally and Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun is demoted
  • February 6: Wang visits U.S. consulate in Chengdu
  • March 15: Bo dismissed as Chongqing party chief
  • March 26: Britain asks China to investigate November death of Briton Neil Heywood in Chongqing
  • April 10: Bo suspended from Communist Party posts. China says Gu is being investigated for Heywood's death
  • August 20: Gu given suspended death sentence after confessing to Heywood's murder
  • September 24: Wang convicted of defection, power abuse and bribe taking
  • September 28: Communist Party expels Bo


2013
  • July 25: Bo indicted for bribery, corruption, abuse of power
  • August 22: Bo trial begins in Jinan
  • September 22: Bo sentenced to life in prison
Gu Kailai, the wife of former Politburo member Bo Xilai, was convicted in August of murdering the 41-year-old Heywood because of what a Chinese court said was a business dispute.  Many of Heywood's friends have said there were inconsistencies with the official account of the murder, which happened in the southwest city of Chongqing, where Bo was party chief.

The British government has tried to distance itself from Heywood, who was previously rumored to have had links to London's spy agency.  In April, Foreign Secretary William Hague took the unusual step of commenting on intelligence matters, insisting that Heywood was "not an employee of the British government in any capacity."

The Journal said its investigation found that, although Heywood was not paid or directed by MI6, he was a "willful and knowing informant" of the spy agency.  It quoted anonymous officials saying his efforts, which included providing information on Bo's private affairs, had been "useful."  But the paper said that British or Chinese officials have not suggested he was killed because of suspected MI6 links.

A freelance business consultant, the flamboyant Heywood is believed to have had connections to the Bo family since the 1990s.  Friends say Heywood was always immaculately dressed and even drove around Beijing in a silver Jaguar with license plates reading "007," the code name of the fictional British spy, James Bond.

A China scholar at the University of Nottingham in Britain, Steve Tsang, told VOA it would be a stretch to call Heywood a spy, saying instead he probably only provided information to MI6.  Tsang praised the author of The Wall Street Journal article, Jeremy Page.

"I think it’s a great piece of investigative journalism in terms of what the journalist Jeremy Page has found out," he said. "On the other hand, what the story also tells us is that Heywood was not an employee of the British secret intelligence service and that he was not a paid agent of the British secret intelligence service."

Tsang also said Heywood's flamboyance is a sign that he was not a spy.

"Absolutely.  I think if Mr. Heywood had been an employee of the secret intelligence service or a paid agent of the secret intelligence service, I think he would have been advised to take a different profile and not advertising that he would like to be 007," he said.   

Chinese officials originally said Heywood's death was the result of alcohol poisoning, and his body was quickly cremated.  But in February, Bo's ex-police chief Wang Lijun fled to a U.S. consulate in Chengdu and told diplomatic officials he had information on Gu's involvement in the murder.  Gu was later given a suspended death sentence for the murder, while Wang was convicted of attempted defection, abuse of power and taking bribes.

The scandal wrecked the career of Bo, a rising star in Chinese politics, who was once considered a favorite for a top post in a once-a-decade leadership transition that begins this week.  Bo has been expelled from the Communist Party and is under investigation for charges including corruption and interfering with Heywood's murder investigation.


  • In this photo released by the Jinan Intermediate People's Court, Bo Xilai is handcuffed and held by police officers as he stands at the court in Jinan, in eastern China's Shandong province, Sept. 22, 2013.
  • A minivan believed to be carrying Bo Xilai arrives at the Jinan Intermediate People's Court ahead of the fifth day of Bo's trial, August 26, 2013. 
  • In this image taken from video, Bo Xilai addresses a court at Jinan Intermediate People's Court in eastern China's Shandong province, Aug. 24, 2013.
  • A woman protests outside the Jinan Intermediate People's Court, eastern China's Shandong province, August 21, 2013.
  • Gu Kailai, wife of Bo Xilai, is seen in a still image taken from an August 10, 2013 video provided by the Jinan Intermediate People's Court.
  • Policemen are seen at a court building where the trial for Bo Xilai was held in Jinan, Shandong province.
  • Former police chief Wang Lijun speaks during a court hearing in Chengdu, China, in this still image taken from CCTV video, Sept. 18, 2012.
  • This video image taken from CCTV shows Gu Kailai, wife of Bo Xilai, being taken into the Intermediate People's Court in the eastern Chinese city Hefei, August 9, 2012.
  • Police officers stand guard at the Hefei City Intermediate People's Court for the murder trial of Gu Kailai, Anhui Province, China, August 9, 2012.
  • A  combonation photo showing Neil Heywood and Gu Kailai.
  • Bo Xilai, walks past Communist Party leaders at the National People's Congress in Beijing, March 9, 2012.
  • Bo Xilai, right and his son, Bo Guagua, 2007.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs