Slain UK businessman was not a spy, says Hague
LONDON A BUSINESSMAN whose murder sparked political upheaval in China was not a British spy, Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Thursday, trying to quell speculation that has swirled around the man’s mysterious death.
An influential parliamentary committee had asked Hague for more information about what Britain knew about Neil Heywood’s death in a hotel room in the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqinq last November, and about media speculation he may have been a British spy or informant.
“It is long-established government policy neither to confirm nor deny speculation of this sort,” Hague said in a letter to Richard Ottaway, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee.
“However, given the intense interest in this case it is, exceptionally, appropriate for me to confirm that Heywood was not an employee of the British government in any capacity,” he wrote.
Heywood, 41, was only an “occasional contact of the embassy, attending some meetings in connection with his business”, Hague said, adding that he was not known to the British Consulate- General in Chongqing.
Heywood’s relatives and a British security source also have denied he was a spy.
Chinese police initially attributed Heywood’s death to cardiac arrest due to drinking too much alcohol. But this month Chinese authorities said they believed it was a murder and named the wife of Bo Xilai, a former Communist Party chief of Chongqing, as a suspect.
Heywood’s death ended Bo’s hopes of emerging as a national leader and is potentially the most divisive issue the Communist Party has faced since Zhao Ziyang.