The family of a British citizen murdered in China, whose death triggered the nation’s biggest political scandals in decades, is seeking compensation of up to US$8.2 million from his convicted killer, the wife of former top Chinese official Bo Xilai (薄熙來), a lawyer with knowledge of the talks said yesterday.
Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai (谷開來), was jailed for life last year for the poisoning of British businessman Neil Heywood in a case that also led to a corruption probe into Bo.
It is customary for a murderer to be ordered to pay court-sanctioned compensation to the victim’s family. A source close to the family said Heywood’s Chinese widow, Wang Lulu (王露露), had been pushing for compensation for herself and their two young children from Gu. Lulu and the children are believed to be still living in Beijing.
Li Xiaolin (李肖霖), a lawyer who has represented Gu’s family in the past, said Heywood’s family was seeking between 30 million yuan and 50 million yuan (US$4.9 million US$8.2 million) in compensation.
“The talks started last year, but have not reached any agreement yet that I know of,” Li told reporters. “Gu Kailai has no money herself.”
Money was not being sought from Bo though as he was not mentioned in Gu’s verdict, Li said.
Bo was sacked as Chinese Communist Party (CCP) secretary of Chongqing last year when his wife was named as an official suspect in the November 2011 murder of Heywood, a longtime friend of the couple.
Bo is now awaiting trial on charges of corruption, taking bribes and of bending the law.The government originally implicated Bo in helping to cover up Heywood’s murder, but the legal indictment issued last month made no mention of that and it is unclear if the case will be included in his trial, likely to start this month.
The British embassy in Beijing said it had passed on the family’s concerns about a lack of progress on the compensation request to the Chinese government.
In a statement to the Wall Street Journal, Heywood’s mother, Ann Heywood, said there had been no progress on seeking compensation.
“Given the circumstances of Neil’s murder, I have been surprised and disappointed that, despite repeated discreet approaches to the Chinese authorities, there has been no substantive or practical response,” she said.
She urged China to show “decisiveness and compassion” to ease the effects of his death on the family, especially his two children, the newspaper added.
Chinese law states that victims of crime can seek compensation from the convicted, but does not lay out monetary benchmarks, which are generally decided by the courts.
However, for such a sensitive case as this, the upper echelons of the CCP would have to sign off on a compensation deal, making any court involvement moot.