The Chinese reporter who first revealed the death of UK businessman Neil Heywood on his microblog — apparently unaware of the alleged connection to the family of then-Chinese Communist Party secretary of Chongqing Bo Xilai (薄熙來), is being sought for questioning by officials, he said on Saturday.
Chinese state media announced last week that Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai (谷開來), and a family employee were in custody on suspicion of murdering the Briton, who died in Chongqing in November last year.
Bo, also a senior party leader, has been suspended from key political roles and is under investigation for disciplinary violations.
Journalist Chu Chaoxin (褚朝新) wrote on his microblog: “I do not deny that I posted the name of Neil Heywood first in March. Because of this, yesterday there were public people [presumably police] without licenses who were trying to find me and harassed my friend and intended to take him to the police station with the excuse that he did not have a temporary residency certificate [for the city].”
“After negotiation and airing it on the microblog, police apologized. The truth proved that Neil Heywood is not a rumor. If they want to lock up people who told the truth, I am willing to be that person and make history,” he added.
The claim that Gu killed Heywood first surfaced in a series of microblog posts last month, citing a mystery text message received by the journalist.
Chu could not be reached for comment, but people with knowledge of the incident said the message — from an unknown number — claimed only that Heywood had been killed. It did not give further details or mention either Bo or Gu.
Chu’s post about the death was deleted and it is not clear how the allegations about Gu’s involvement surfaced weeks later, they said.
The UK first announced that it had asked China to reinvestigate the case last month.
Former Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun (王立軍) is believed to have told US officials of his -suspicions about the death when he fled to the US consulate in Chengdu in February. He is now under investigation by Chinese authorities.
Prior to news of Gu’s detention, Heywood’s family said the 41-year-old died of a heart attack.
British consular officials in China expressed suspicion about the death, but no action was taken because other officials thought asking the Chinese authorities to investigate would be problematic, the Wall Street Journal reported.
It cited unspecified sources who added that some British officials knew local police had pressured Heywood’s Chinese wife to agree to a swift cremation without an autopsy.
Police have warned Lulu Wang (王露露) not to speak to foreign media, Reuters said on Saturday.
Chinese state media has sought to play down the scandal, which comes just a few months before power is transferred to a new generation of leaders.
A commentary in the Global Times said: “Bo’s case is an independent incident of a violation of party discipline and China’s laws. What is going on is the inevitable result of a lawful investigation. It is an exaggeration to say the case mirrors China’s ‘political fight.’”