Neil Heywood was a U.K. businessman who was originally reported to have died in China from over-consumption of alcohol. That finding is now questioned. Xilai was considered a contender for leadership.
Neil Heywood was friends with Bo Xilai, who was until March of this year the communist party boss of the city of Chongqing.
Bo has now been suspended from his post, pending the outcome of the investigation into the death of Heywood while staying in a hotel in Chongqing city. Bo's wife Gu lailai is implicated in the death of the businessman. The tangled web of intrigue in Chongqing city entails Bo, his wife Gu lailai and also the police chief of the city, Wang Lijun.
The official Chinese news agency today Xinhua had a typically brief notice to disperse the information.
As noted at MSNBC, and Fox, Bo has been removed from his position in the Communist Party of China's Politburo and Central Committee positions as his wife was implicated in the death of Heywood.
Bo had been a contender for achieving a position of leadership in the ruling Politburo which is comprised of twenty-five members, while the full Central Committee entails about two hundred members.
While Heywood had initially been found to have died as the result of consuming too much alcohol, the BBC reported in March of this year that some British nationals living in China had expressed doubts to the British embassy.
After the British embassy requested a new investigation, the Vice-Mayor and police chief Wang, fled to the US consulate in Chengdu, nearby to Chongqing.
Wang remained in the US embassy for a full day and then left, only to be placed under investigation.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao had made an announcement at a March news conference which many had seen as a thinly veiled rebuke of Bo for his advocating a "red culture" movement of the type which defined the Chinese cultural revolution.
Along with the demotion announcements today came the unveiling of the intentional homicide charges against his wife Gu.
As of only last week, Bo was still defending his position and his policies, this week he stands to lose everything, while his former Vice-Mayor and police chiefs traipsing off to the US consulate prompted Bo to state in regard to Wang: "I feel like I put my trust in the wrong person,"
It had been speculated by some that Wang had intended to defect or at the least to seek asylum. It is also alleged that Wang described the death of Heywood while at the consulate as a homicide.
Chinese politics is not normally handled so openly and in the public view, but rather, most often, the intrigue is left behind closed doors and within the confines of the Central Committee and Politburo sessions. The addition of Heywood's death last November seems to have caused a dramatic opening into the inner workings of the political scheming going on ahead of the 18th Party Congress later this year, when the next generation of leadership will be chosen for China. Party Chief Hu Jintao and others are expected to retire as a new successor is named.
Not all who are the Chinese press corp are happy with the idea of Bo's removal however. Broadcaster and leftist writer Sima Nan expressed it this way: "The removal of Bo Xilai is a real shock to me. We don't know whether it's because of his personal errors or is an attack on the Chongqing model," ....."If this amounts to a negation of the Chongqing model, then I can't agree with this decision."
The Xinhua news release in its entirety:
BEIJING, April 10 (Xinhua) -- As Comrade Bo Xilai is suspected of being involved in serious discipline violations, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) has decided to suspend his membership of the CPC Central Committee Political Bureau and the CPC Central Committee, in line with the CPC Constitution and the rules on investigation of CPC discipline inspection departments.
The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the CPC will file the case for investigation.