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'Jackie Kennedy of China' suspected in death of British businessman

REUTERS/Jason Lee/Files

China's former Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai waves as he attends the opening ceremony of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in this March 3, 2012 file photo.

 

Updated at 9:45 p.m. ET: The Chinese Communist Party suspended high-flying politician Bo Xilai from its inner circle Tuesday following speculation that he is connected to the murder of a British businessman, China’s news agency Xinhua reported.

In addition, Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, once a celebrated lawyer, was jailed, as was a Zhang Xiajun, who worked in the family’s home, the Guardian of London reported.

Bo, 62, had been suspended from his position as Communist party boss in Chongqing last month after the city’s former police chief defected to the U.S. Consul and alleged that Bo had ties to the murder.


The British businessman, Neil Heywood, was found dead in a hotel room in Chongqing on Nov. 15. At the time, police said he died of alcohol poisoning, but doubts were raised later and the U.K. embassy asked Chinese authorities to investigate further, the BBC reported.

The news agency said that Chinese law enforcement determined that Heywood had been killed and that Gu and Heywood had been fighting over unspecified “economic interests.”

Days before he was dismissed, Bo said at a news conference that some people were pouring “filth on my family.” He and his wife later disappeared from public view.

Fall from grace: China leadership contender Bo Xilai sacked

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Tuesday he welcomed China's announcements on its investigation.

"It is a death that needs to be investigated in its own terms, on its own merits without political considerations," Hague told BBC television.

The decision to banish Bo from the Central Committee and its powerful, 25-member Politburo effectively ends the career of China’s most brash and controversial politician.

Bo and his wife had been called the “Jack and Jackie Kennedy of China,” according to the BBC. The son of a prominent Communist leader, Bo had steadily climbed the party ranks; observers of Chinese politics believed he would have been a contender when the party chooses its top leadership later this year, as it does once a decade.

Gu, an accomplished lawyer who also came from an influential Communist family, closed her law practice as her husband became increasingly powerful. In recent years, her health declined, a family friend told the BBC, and she stayed home to read books.

Ed Byrne, an American lawyer from Denver, Colo., told the BBC that when he knew Gu, she was attractive, charismatic and funny.

“They were the modern liberal element there," Byrne said.

Reuters and NBC News contributed to this report.

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