A special China Daily Show investigation
BEIJING, CHENGDU, DALIAN (China Daily Show) – The encrypted telegram came in the early hours of the morning. “Mate, I’m sorry about last night…” it began. The implication, though, was obvious: 41-year-old Neil Heywood’s death in a Chongqing hotel room in the twilight hours of a balmy November night was no accident.
It was murder.
To try to uncover the truth, our anonymous investigative team set out to China. But in modern-day China, under a secrecy-obsessed Communist regime, the truth is rarely pure and never simple.
We flew to Dalian, the eco port-city in northern China, where the deposed Politburo member Bo Xilai is first said to have met Heywood, a British businessman who did business things in China.
Residents seemed to just go about their business blithely, seemingly unaware that, just years previously, at some location somewhere in this modern coastal city, Bo was introduced to Heywood, likely shaking his hand, neither aware they had just made a fateful pact that would end in corruption, double-dealing, death – and hot, steamy sex.
Most people we spoke to either didn’t know what we were talking about – or weren’t saying. The atmosphere of intrigue and silence was claustrophobic. There was no sign of any Harrow-educated, Aston Martin-driving expats anywhere to be seen.
Rattled, we departed for Chongqing, determined not to give up until we had at least one good, juicy, vague, anonymous quote.
Chongqing, the mountain megacity of 30 million, nestled next to the sensitive border regions of Tibet, is a sizzling hotbed of crime, criminals and criminality, with a dash of sleaze. Yet on our visit, a pervasive wall of silence met our inquiries, according to our interpreter.
It is in Chongqing, where Bo was Party Secretary, that the shadowy Heywood may have helped Bo’s son, Bo Guagua, learn English, and aided his entrance to Harrow School, by turning up with a big bag of money and asking if Bo Guagua could go to Harrow School.
But Heywood’s life here was so secretive, he didn’t even have a Facebook account, making it near-impossible to find out what he was up to.
According to reports, Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, ordered the intelligence-affiliated Heywood to divorce his wife and swear an oath of fealty to the Bos. When Heywood nobly refused, he was immediately killed – one year later.
“It’s obvious, innit?” said an Englishman who claimed to have met Heywood briefly in a hotel bar but who refused to give his name, for possible fear that he may be in danger. “He was givin’ ’er one. Then the ’usband found out and… I mean, why else would you ask for ’im to divorce? Stands to reason. Yeah.”
Armed with this stunning revelation, we returned to Beijing. But as Heywood’s family continues to tearfully protest that he died of natural causes from a congenital heart condition, the suspicious environment on the streets of the capital tell a different story.
A smoggy cloud covers up the spring sky and a chill wind of fear runs through its narrow hutong avenues – an Englishman died somewhere in these strange lands and we can only speculate and conjecture as to why and how. And that is what we will continue to do, until something else comes along.
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