Neil Heywood

By Catherine Contiguglia
♦ Germany gets a lot of advice – good and bad – about how it should be handling the situation in Europe, the FT’s Tony Barber writes, when its greatest contribution would be to reform and modernise its own economy.
♦ Indonesia has enjoyed remarkable economic and political transformation, but the first regime change in the country’s democratic era will be the true test of the country’s resilience.
♦ Russia’s awkwardly worded ban on “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors” has sparked international condemnation, as well as crackdown within Russia on those who question it – even in jest.
♦ With Larry Summers as a top pick to replace Ben Bernanke as chairman of the US Federal Reserve, there are a lot of questions about whether his connections with Wall Street make him better informed for the position, or whether they present a conflict of interest, especially as the Fed works to complete regulatory legislation.
♦ The mother of Neil Heywood, the British businessman whose murder led to the downfall of Chinese Communist official Bo Xilai and the conviction of his wife, has broken her silence in a statement saying that Chinese officials have still given her neither a full account of the murder nor compensation, leaving Heywood’s two children without financial provision. 

David Pilling

After a murder comes disposal of the body. Neil Heywood, the British businessman who got mixed up with China’s powerful Bo family, was hurriedly cremated after police pronounced he had died of alcohol poisoning. In Pulp Fiction, when Vincent, played by John Travolta, accidently shoots an informer, he calls for a professional, Winston Wolf (Harvey Keitel), to help him get rid of the evidence.

In both cases time is of the essence. In Pulp Fiction, all traces of the body must be removed by the time Bonnie, who lives in the house where the corpse has been hidden, returns from work. In China, the mess surrounding Bo Xilai, the party secretary of Chongqing whose downfall was precipitated by Heywood’s murder, had to be dealt with by the time of the 18th Party Congress, now set to begin on November 8. 

Bo Xilai with his wife Gu Kailai

Not so long ago, Bo Xilai was one of China’s “princelings”, a charismatic, high-flying politician who was apparently destined for its top leadership. From his power base in Chongqing he became known for smashing organised crime, increasing foreign investment and running “revolutionary” campaigns involving singing contests and the revival of Maoist symbols.

But when in February a mafia-busting former police chief called Wang Lijun walked into the US consulate in the western city of Chengdu, he set in train a series of events that brought scandal and infighting out of the secret confines of Chinese party politics and into the public eye. The result was Mr Bo’s spectacular fall from grace and the arrest of his wife Gu Kailai – herself the daughter of a top general – on suspicion of murdering the British citizen Neil Heywood.