British diplomats to attend Chinese murder trial

A combination of two photographs shows British businessman Neil Heywood (L) at an Aston Martin dealership in Beijing, May 26, 2010, and Gu Kailai, wife of China's former Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai (not pictured), at a mourning held for her father-in-law Bo Yibo, former vice-chairman of the Central Advisory Commission of the Communist Party of China, in Beijing January 17, 2007. REUTERS/Stringer/Files

LONDON (Reuters) - British diplomats will be allowed to attend the trial of the wife of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai for the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, the Foreign Office said on Saturday.

“I can confirm that we will be attending the trial,” a spokesman said.

Diplomatic sources said it was unusual for China to allow British diplomats to be present at such a sensitive hearing, particularly when no UK citizen was on trial.

Heywood was found dead in a hotel room last November in the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing, where Bo was the former Communist Party leader.

Chinese authorities at first blamed the death on excessive alcohol consumption but later accused Bo’s wife Gu Kailua and an aide of poisoning Heywood.

Bo has been suspended from top party bodies and his wife theoretically faces execution if she is convicted of murder at the trial this month.

The British Foreign Office said last month: “We are dedicated to seeking justice for Neil Heywood and his family and we will be following developments closely.”

Reporting by Stephen Addison; Editing by Stephen Powell