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Mother of Briton murdered in China renews compensation call
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Sept 12, 2014

China's wealthy grow despite graft crackdown: report
Shanghai (AFP) Sept 12, 2014 - China's dollar millionaires have increased steadily to more than one million, according to an independent publisher, despite a corruption crackdown and austerity programme launched by the government.

The number of millionaires in mainland China rose 3.8 percent from last year to 1.09 million, according to the Hurun Report, a China-based publisher of luxury magazines and compiler of an annual list of the country's richest people.

The number of "super-rich", defined as those people with personal wealth of at least 100 million yuan ($16 million) rose 3.7 percent to 67,000, it said.

"Although we have been seeing a slowdown in spending, the money is still very much there," founder of the Hurun Report, Rupert Hoogewerf, said in the report Thursday.

After Chinese leader Xi Jinping took over as head of the ruling Communist Party at the end of 2012, he launched both a government austerity campaign and anti-corruption drive which has hit the market for luxury products especially hard.

China's political capital Beijing still has the biggest number of wealthy with 192,000 millionaires and 11,300 super-rich, the report said. The southern province of Guangdong and commercial hub Shanghai follow in both categories.

It forecast the number of millionaires in China could reach 1.21 million and super-rich may rise to 73,000 in the next three years, lifted by steady economic growth.

Millionaires in China include private business owners, professional stock market investors, real estate investors and high-salaried executives, the report said.

The mother of a Briton whose murder led to the downfall of high-flying Chinese politician Bo Xilai has hit out at Beijing for failing to pay compensation over his death, saying it left a "stain" on China's reputation.

Neil Heywood was found dead in a hotel room in the southwestern Chinese mega-city of Chongqing in November 2011. Bo's wife Gu Kailai was convicted of the murder while the former political star's own trial ruled he acted to suppress a probe into the killing.

Heywood had been close to Bo and his family, but Gu's 2012 trial heard that she and the businessman had fallen out after a deal went sour.

Bo, once one of the Communist Party's elite 25-member Politburo, was convicted of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power and sentenced to life in prison last September after a trial that exposed murky machinations, high-living and homicide in his inner circle.

In a statement to The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, Heywood's mother Ann said she had been assured by Chinese authorities that she and her family had a right to compensation, but had not received anything.

Authorities had told her she could seek compensation in Chinese courts. "This is absurd," she said.

"As is well known, China does not enjoy the rule of law: the Chinese courts and the whole legal process are controlled by the Communist Party."

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she was "not aware of the specifics" when asked about Heywood's statement at a regular briefing on Friday.

"But I would like to point out that China is a country governed by the rule of law," Hua said.

Personal injury was a civil matter, she added, and the parties could reach a settlement between themselves or file an action in court.

- 'Public outrage' -

In her statement, Heywood questioned whether Beijing's "inertia and evasiveness" might be related to "factional or personal struggles" or Gu's relationships "with past and present members of the Chinese leadership".

Her son's murder and Chinese authorities' subsequent conduct were "a stain on the reputation of a great country and provide chilling evidence of the dangers of doing business in today's China," she added.

She posited an analogy reversing the nationalities, where the "well-known wife of a successful and ambitious member of the British cabinet has befriended a Chinese businessman who is living in London".

"When, years later, the friendship sours, she murders the businessman by poisoning. Her husband, the cabinet minister, assisted by the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and a number of his senior deputies, conspires to cover up the murder."

In such a case she said, "one can be certain that the Chinese authorities would express public outrage, would hold the British government to account and would demand appropriate compensation for the family's loss".

Besides his mother, Heywood is survived by a wife and two children.

Bo, once considered a candidate for the Politburo Standing Committee -- China's most powerful body -- was a populist but divisive figure, whose "red revival" policies when he ran Chongqing raised worries in some quarters over his leftist bent.


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