Lawmakers press UK government over China murder scandal

Thu Apr 19, 2012 5:16pm EDT
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By Adrian Croft

LONDON (Reuters) - Lawmakers asked the British government on Thursday about rumors that a businessman whose murder sparked political upheaval in China may have been a spy and demanded to know why it took so long for ministers to be told of suspicions about his death.

Police in China initially attributed the death of Neil Heywood, 41, in a hotel room in the southwest Chinese city of Chongqing last November to cardiac arrest due to over-consumption of alcohol.

But this month authorities said they believed it was a murder and named the wife of Bo Xilai, a former Communist Party chief of China's southwestern Chongqing city, as a suspect.

The British foreign ministry has since come under fire at home for being slow to demand that China investigate the case.

British media have also speculated Heywood may have been a British spy but Heywood's relatives and a British security source have denied there were any grounds for such rumors.

Richard Ottaway, chairman of parliament's influential Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote to Foreign Secretary William Hague demanding clarification.

"I would be grateful if you would make clear what relationship the British Consulate-General Chongqing or the British Embassy in Beijing had with Mr Heywood before his death," wrote Ottaway, who is a member of Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party.

"Did he supply the British Consulate or Embassy with information, either on a formal or informal basis?" he asked.   Continued...

British businessman Neil Heywood poses for a photograph at a gallery in Beijing, in this handout picture dated April 12, 2011. REUTERS/