Bri­tain wants probe into death in Chongqing

Cit­i­zen tied to ousted politi­cian

The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY ALEXA OLE­SEN

BEI­JING | Bri­tain has asked China to in­ves­ti­gate the death last year of a Bri­tish man with re­ported ties to a high-pro­file politi­cian who was dis­missed this month in a mas­sive scan­dal.

The Bri­tish cit­i­zen, Neil Hey­wood, died in Novem­ber in Chongqing, an em­bassy spokesman in Bei­jing said.

The re­quest comes as an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into of­fi­cials in the megac­ity of Chongqing widens, with Chi­nese me­dia re­port­ing that a dis­trict head has been taken into po­lice cus­tody.

Chongqing Com­mu­nist Party Sec­re­tary Bo Xi­lai was ousted ear­lier this month, although the rea­sons be­hind his dis­missal re­main un­clear.

Mr. Bo gained no­to­ri­ety for a city­wide cam­paign to re­vive Mao Ze­dong-era com­mu­nist songs and sto­ries, dredg­ing up mem­o­ries of the chaotic Cul­tural Rev­o­lu­tion, themes that wor­ried some about a re­turn of Mao’s dog­matic com­mu­nist pol­i­tics.

Mr. Bo, 62, was one of the coun­try’s high­est-pro­file politi­cians and had been con­sid­ered a lead­ing can­di­date for the party’s all-pow­er­ful Polit­buro Stand­ing Com­mit­tee when new mem­bers are cho­sen this fall.

A pro­fes­sional ac­quain­tance of Hey­wood’s who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity said Hey­wood was a con­sul­tant who had links to the Bo fam­ily stretch­ing back to Mr. Bo’s time as the top of­fi­cial in north­east China’s Dalian more than a decade ago.

The ac­quain­tance said Hey­wood main­tained his close ties when Mr. Bo moved to Bei­jing to serve as com­merce min­is­ter and later when he took the top job in Chongqing, a city of 32 mil­lion, but de­clined to give fur­ther de­tails.

The Wall Street Jour­nal on Mon­day cited un­named friends and ac­quain­tances of Hey­wood as say­ing he had told them he had close ties to the Bo fam­ily and could help ar­range meet­ings and busi­ness deals in Chongqing. The re­port said the ties had been made through Hey­wood’s Chi­nese wife, who is from Dalian.

Chi­nese web­sites and Bri­tish me­dia re­ported that of­fi­cials had said Hey­wood died from over­con­sump­tion of al­co­hol.

“At the time, we had no rea­son to dis­be­lieve the po­lice’s find­ings,” the Bri­tish Em­bassy spokesman said. “But as con­cerns were raised to us, and those con­cerns be­came more nu­mer­ous, we then passed those con­cerns to the Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties and asked them to in­ves­ti­gate.”

The of­fi­cial, who asked not to be named in line with em­bassy pol­icy, said the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment spoke with Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties to re­quest a fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion, but said he could not pro­vide fur­ther de­tails about the dis­cus­sions ex­cept that they took place ear­lier this year.

Po­lice in Chongqing said Mon­day that they had no in­for­ma­tion on the case, and For­eign Min­istry spokesman Hong Lei told re­porters at a reg­u­lar news brief­ing that he also had no in­for­ma­tion.

A Bei­jing-based busi­ness weekly known for bold re­port­ing, the Eco­nomic Ob­server, said Sun­day that the top party of­fi­cial in Chongqing’s Nan’an dis­trict, Xia Zeliang, was de­tained last week but that it was still un­clear what charges he might face.

The State Depart­ment down­played con­cerns Mon­day that Is­lamists are dom­i­nat­ing the draft­ing of Egypt’s new con­sti­tu­tion, de­spite crit­i­cism and outrage voiced by sec­u­lar and Chris­tian politi­cians in Cairo.

“We’re not go­ing to pre­judge, ob­vi­ously, the work of this panel,” State Depart­ment spokes­woman Vic­to­ria Nu­land said, re­fer­ring the 100-per­son body elected over the week­end by a post-rev­o­lu­tion par­lia­ment to write the con­sti­tu­tion.

Two lib­eral Egyp­tian politi­cians quit the panel Mon­day, cit­ing con­cerns that it is be­ing dom­i­nated by Is­lamists and lacks suf­fi­cient rep­re­sen­ta­tion for women and Chris­tians.

About 70 per­cent of the panel com­prises in­de­pen­dent Is­lamists or mem­bers of Is­lamist par­ties in­clud­ing the Mus­lim Broother­hood.

Ms. Nu­land told re­porters in Washington that the con­sti­tu­tional panel rep­re­sents “one of the next steps in the Egyp­tian tran­si­tion process,” and noted that the new con­sti­tu­tion will still “have to be put to ref­er­en­dum be­fore the Egyp­tian peo­ple.”

Asked whether U.S. of­fi­cials are con­cerned the panel is dom­i­nated by Is­lamists, Ms. Nu­land said: “We’re not go­ing to judge these groups by their names [or] their his­tory. We’re go­ing to judge them by what they do, we’re go­ing to judge them by the out­put.”

She added: “This panel is from the elected par­lia­ment, so hav­ing been elected demo­crat­i­cally, it’s now their obli­ga­tion to up­hold and de­fend and pro­tect the demo­cratic rights that brought them to power in the first place.

“That’s the stan­dard that we’ll hold them to,” she said.

U.s.-egypt re­la­tions were frayed ear­lier this year when Cairo’s mil­i­tary rulers cracked down on Amer­i­can non­profit groups that pro­mote democ­racy abroad. Egyp­tian au­thor­i­ties raided their of­fices, ar­rested sev­eral work­ers and charged them with fo­ment­ing chaos.

The work­ers were per­mit­ted to leave the na­tion this month, but many still face crim­i­nal charges in Egyp­tian courts. The is­sue has prompted a bi­par­ti­san group of con­gres­sional lead­ers to call for an end to U.S. aid to Egypt.

Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton, how­ever, no­ti­fied Congress on Fri­day of her in­ten­tion to waive cer­tain democ­racy re­quire­ments so that $1.3 bil­lion in U.S. aid could flow to Egypt.

Not­ing Cairo’s com­mit­ment to the Is­raeli-egypt peace treaty, the State Depart­ment also is mov­ing to free up $200 mil­lion in eco­nomic aid dur­ing the post-rev­o­lu­tion tran­si­tion.

Mean­while in Egypt, the rul­ing mil­i­tary is­sued a veiled threat of a crack­down on the Mus­lim Brother­hood if the group persists in de­mands to form a new gov­ern­ment, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported.

The warn­ing points to a grow­ing pos­si­bil­ity of con­fronta­tion be­tween the Mus­lim Brother­hood and the mil­i­tary, which emerged as Egypt’s two most pow­er­ful in­sti­tu­tions since the fall of long­time au­thor­i­tar­ian ruler Hosni Mubarak a year ago.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

China’s Com­mu­nist Party side­lined Bo Xi­lai, the pow­er­ful and charis­matic Chongqing party sec­re­tary, ear­lier this month. Now Bri­tain wants an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the death of a cit­i­zen with re­ported ties to Mr. Bo.

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