Bo Xilai Blamed for Crash of Flight Carrying Rival's Wife

A 2002 crash of a passenger jet carrying the wife of a political adversary was likely engineered by disgraced Chongqing Communist Party boss Bo Xilai and his wife Gu Kailai, according to an article appearing in the UK’s Daily Mail.

One of the 112 people killed when China Northern Airlines flight from Beijing to Dalian caught fire and plunged into the sea was Li Yanfeng. Li’s husband was Han Xiaoguang, owner of Golden Shine International Hotel in Dalian. Han had been a supporter of one of Bo’s political rivals and had been imprisoned. At the time Bo was governor of Liaoning province and had been the mayor of Dalian — a city in the southern tip of Liaoning — from 1992 until 2000. He was well placed to have had a hand in Han’s imprisonment.

On the night of May 7, 2002 Han’s wife Li was aboard China Northern flight 6136. She was returning from Beijing where she had secured letters urging Han’s release from high-level officials, including Hu Jintao, China’s current president. As a special assistant to the human resources chief in China’s Ministry of State Security, Li had been well placed to seek the letters.

Just minutes before the plane arrived at Dalian Airport, it caught fire and crashed into the sea, killing every one of the its 103 passengers and nine crew.

The claim that the crash had targeted Li is supported by the fact that the official list of fatalities left Li’s profile blank, not even specifying her occupation and the other usual information provided for other passengers, according to Jiang Weiping, the Dalian correspondent of Hong Kong-based newspaper Wen Wei Po. At the time of the crash Jiang was being held in prison with Han for accusing the Communist Party of embezzlement. Han told Jiang that Bo and Gu had caused the plane crash to kill his wife because she “knew too much.” The plane’s black box was never recovered and details of the crash were covered up by Bo, Jiang alleges.

The crash was eventually blamed on another passenger. Zhang Pilin had set fire to the plane so his family could collect on the seven insurance policies he had taken out before his death, said an article by the official Xinhua News Agency. Based on this conclusion, none of the policies were paid out to beneficiaries.

But information uncovered by non-state Chinese media suggests that Zhang had no motive for killing himself. He and his wife were financially comfortable and had a young son. Zhang owned a successful renovation business after working for the Dalian Public Security Bureau’s computer center. He had a master’s degree from prestigious Nanjing University. The business was doing well and the couple were not experiencing any financial trouble, said Zhang’s brother.

Zhang was said to have flown to Beijing on a day trip to recover fees for a renovation job. Minutes before the fatal flight he called his wife to tell her that he would talk to her upon his return. He also called two associates to discuss the progress of renovation projects.

But Zhang’s family suspects he may have been targeted from the beginning because all the bodies recovered from the crash were immediately cremated following DNA tests, except his.

Bo and Gu have also been linked to the death of a Dalian man who had been looking after the Bo family’s overseas financial interests and to a Chongqing police officer who plunged to his death from a building in January after participating in the investigation of Heywood’s murder.

Some also suspect the couple were behind the disappearance of Dalian TV news anchor Zhang Weijie, who was said to have had an affair with Bo. Another possible victim of Bo and Gu, to some minds, is the daughter of former Dalian vice mayor Yuan Xianqian, who once worked for Gu’s law firm and reportedly killed a co-worker before committing suicide.

Bo is also alleged to have killed three investigators working under former Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun after Wang told him that Gu had had a hand in Heywood’s murder.

Bo remains in custody after being stripped of all his Communist Party posts for “serious discipline violations”. His wife is being held on suspicion of having arranged the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood. The Bo family scandal — into which most observers have read a power struggle at the highest levels — is deemed the biggest political scandal to hit China since the Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989.