CHENGDU, China – In a stunning twist to one of China’s biggest scandals in decades, state media confirmed Tuesday that Bo Xilai, once seen as a rising political star, has been suspended from his seat on the nation’s politburo and his wife is a suspect in the killing of a British businessman.
The state-owned news agency Xinhua said Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, and a household staff member are “highly suspected” of involvement in the killing of Neil Heywood, who was found dead in the sprawling city of Chongqing last November. The two have been “transferred to judicial authorities on suspected crime of intentional homicide,” Xinhua reported.
The chain of events, which has been unusually public in a nation known for keeping a tight lid on political intrigue, is now certain to have ended Bo’s public career.
Until recently, Bo was widely considered a leading candidate for one of nine slots on the politburo standing committee, the core of power in the world’s second-largest economy.
Xinhua’s report confirmed at least some of the speculation that had been swirling around Bo since his removal March 15 from the position of Chongqing’s Chinese Communist Party secretary.
That seemingly abrupt move came after Chongqing’s former police chief, a man named Wang Lijun, made an unsanctioned trip to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu on Feb. 6 and reportedly sought asylum.
There have been allegations that Wang and Bo fell out after Wang aired the possibility that Heywood had been poisoned in a case that might involve Bo’s wife.
The details of Heywood’s death aren’t publicly known, and the exact nature of Heywood’s relationship with the Bo family remains vague. He’s thought to have met the Bo family when Bo was the mayor of the city of Dalian, a post he held from 1993 to 2000, and acted as a go-between on business deals in the following years.