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Neil Heywood’s family calls for compensation from China

By Jamil Anderlini in Beijing
Monday, 12 Aug 2013 | 10:30 PM ET
Former senior Chinese politician Bo Xilai
Getty Images
Former senior Chinese politician Bo Xilai

The family of a British businessman murdered by the wife of one of China's most powerful politicians is seeking compensation for his death and has criticized the Chinese government for ignoring their pleas.

The businessman, Neil Heywood, was killed with cyanide at the age of 41 by Gu Kailai, wife of senior Chinese leader Bo Xilai, in a hotel room in the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing in November 2011.

In a statement to media on Monday, Mr. Heywood's mother, Ann Heywood, said she was "surprised and disappointed that, despite repeated discreet approaches to the Chinese authorities, there has been no substantive or practical response," to requests for financial compensation, which is commonly paid to victims' families in China.

(Read More: A pivotal moment for China's economic reforms - Bo Xilai's trial)

Ms. Heywood pointed out in her statement, which first appeared in the Wall Street Journal, that her son's young children, Olivia, 12, and George, 8, "are particularly vulnerable to the hurt and horror of their father's murder and, since Neil was the family's sole breadwinner, to uncertainty and insecurity, there being no provision for their future."

Representatives of the family have been quietly lobbying the Chinese government to provide compensation since Ms. Gu was found guilty of Mr. Heywood's murder in a hasty trial in August 2012.

They have argued the state and the ruling Communist party bear some responsibility for ensuring Mr. Heywood's family is compensated because Mr. Bo sat on the party's elite 25-member politburo and because police in Chongqing initially covered up the murder by blaming his death on alcohol poisoning.

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British diplomats have also been lobbying on behalf of the family.

"We've raised the family's concerns over the compensation issue several times with the Chinese authorities, through the foreign ministry, including twice in July 2013," a spokesperson for the British embassy said on Monday.

Mr. Heywood's two young children and his widow, who is a Chinese citizen, are still living in Beijing, according to people familiar with their situation.

Under Chinese law, victims are able to seek compensation from convicted perpetrators of crimes, but it is up to individual courts to decide how such compensation should be paid.

Despite earning an official salary of less than $30,000, Mr. Bo, his wife and their son, Bo Guagua enjoyed lavish lifestyles, with the younger Mr. Bo attending Harrow, the elite private British school, followed by Oxford and Harvard Universities.

(Read More: Corruption Worsens Amid Deep Distrust of Government)

The family has decided to go public with their grievances now as attention turns back to the case. Mr. Bo is scheduled to go on trial in the coming weeks on charges of embezzlement, bribery and abuse of power.

His downfall came after a dispute with Wang Lijun, the former police chief of Chongqing, who then fled to a U.S. consulate in February last year, where he revealed details of Mr. Heywood's murder and claimed his former boss was trying to kill him.

Mr. Bo's trial has been repeatedly delayed since he was detained at the same time as his wife and a number of associates in March 2012.

Additional Reporting by Hannah Kuchler in London

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