Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Chinese political drama a fascinating read

  • Print

The 2011 death of British businessman Neil Heywood in Chongqing, China, was going to be declared an accident by local police.

But Heywood's death was no accident. He had been murdered. The ripples from that crime would cause an international incident and topple some senior Communist leaders.

This valuable book has been ripped from the headlines by journalist and publisher Pin Ho, whose Mingjing News website broke many new developments in the story.

Pin worked for a Chinese government-run newspaper and left in disgust after the Tiananmen Square crackdown of 1989, the Los Angeles Times has reported.

Wenguang Huang is a writer, journalist and translator who recently wrote the memoir The Little Red Guard.

Pin's previous book, China's Princelings, coined that phrase to describe the children of Chinese revolutionaries now in key political and business posts.

Two of those princelings share centre stage: Bo Xilai, the Communist party boss in the city-state of Chongqing and his beautiful but conniving wife, Gu Kailai.

Both had fathers who were Chairman Mao's comrades in arms during the 1949 revolution that brought the Communists to power.

Mao turned on both men during the Cultural Revolution and they and their families were subjected to torture and public humiliation by the Red Guards.

After Mao's death, both their families were rehabilitated, and the two old generals jailed and executed their political friends and opponents with equal alacrity.

Before Heywood's murder, Bo's friends in high places were preparing to usher him onto the exclusive Politburo Standing Committee, the supreme decision-making body for China.

But that was not good enough, according to some. Bo plotted with the head of the state security apparatus, who controls the country's police and courts, to stage a coup.

When Heywood's corpse was discovered in the unlucky (for him) Lucky Holiday Hotel, enter Wang Lijun, local police chief, appointed by Bo.

Wang ordered his investigators to collect all the evidence -- including fingerprints on a water glass -- knowing it would incriminate Bo's wife, Gu. Gu believed Heywood was blackmailing her son.

Then Wang closed the case by declaring Heywood died of alcohol intoxication.

In return for not charging Bo's wife, Wang expected Bo to protect some of Wang's friends from a corruption investigation. Bo responded by slapping Wang.

Wang attempted to defect to a U.S. consulate with damaging information about Bo and his wife. The U.S. refused him asylum, and Bo sent armed police to arrest him.

Wang bargained for a lighter sentence by giving detailed evidence to Beijing investigators about Bo's corruption and Gu's guilt in the Heywood case.

Gu Kailai was tried and convicted of murder, with a suspended death sentence.

As the book went to press, Bo had lost his job and party membership and was awaiting trial on charges of corruption, cronyism, womanizing and complicity in Heywood's murder.

The authors have done an admirable job of sorting through the contradictions, half-truths and outright lies perpetrated by all the players in this drama.

Their careful research and meticulous explanations will help everyone from general readers to veteran China-watchers sort out the meaning of Bo Xilai's rise and fall.

Donald Benham is director of hunger and poverty awareness at Winnipeg Harvest.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 30, 2013 J9

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Jets players discuss outcome of Game 3 and hopes for Game 4

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • MIKE.DEAL@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 100615 - Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 The Mane Attraction - Lions are back at the Assiniboine Park Zoo. Xerxes a 3-year-old male African Lion rests in the shade of a tree in his new enclosure at the old Giant Panda building.  MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
  • A gosling stares near water at Omands Creek Park-See Bryksa 30 day goose challenge- Day 25– June 21, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


What do you think of the government's announcement that there will be no balanced provincial budget until 2018?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google