Regular readers know we have been closely following the Bo Xilai saga and its impact on the Chinese Communist Party. Having already been fired as mayor of Chongqing, Bo has now been suspended from the Politburo, the second most powerful body in China. To add further intrigue to an already charged atmosphere, Bo’s wife has been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the murder of a British businessman late last year.The businessman, Neil Heywood, was said to have close ties with Bo and his family, and much of his fortune was thought to be connected to his relationship with the Bos. Authorities originally claimed the cause of death was alcohol poisoning, and the body was cremated without an autopsy being performed. Now persistent suspicion that Heywood’s death was linked to a business deal gone wrong appears to have been confirmed by China’s state-run news agency.Those suspicions were heightened after Bo’s former police chief, Wang Lijun, fled to a U.S. consulate in Chengdu in February to seek asylum. Wang was turned away after thirty hours there, during which time he apparently told the Americans that Heywood had been poisoned. Soon after, the British Embassy officially requested to have the case re-opened.All of this may sound like the thrilling opening to a spy novel, but the implications of the Bo scandal are profound. China is preparing for a once-in-a-decade leadership transition this fall, and it had hoped the handover would be calm. The Bo scandal punctures the façade of unity established by Party rulers and highlights ongoing power struggles in Beijing. How China deals with its greatest internal political challenge in a generation will be extraordinarily revealing.
Bo Xilai Suspended From Politburo; Wife Arrested For Murder