Briton Neil Heywood's death an ongoing embarrassment for China's Communist Party

(CBS News) BEIJING - The investigation into a British businessman's death in China has become a political embarrassment for the Chinese and led to headlines around the world.

The leading suspect in this murder mystery is the wife of a former high-ranking Chinese official. China's government said it's committed to finding the truth.

The British government ratcheted up the pressure on China, demanding better answers about last November's death of British businessman Neil Heywood in western China. Foreign Secretary William Hague late Tuesday even raised the issue in Parliament.

"I decided a few weeks ago to ask China to reopen its investigations into the death of Neil Heywood," Hague said.

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Heywood is the center of a murder investigation that has brought down Bo Xilai. CBS News interviewed Bo more than a decade ago when he was the appointed mayor of a coastal city and already considered a fast-rising political star.

Until the scandal broke, Bo was destined to become one of China's top leaders. Bo was party boss in Chongqing, a fast growing city of 30 million.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof told Charlie Rose that the case has split observers into two categories, those who believe that the corruption in Bo's family caught up with him and those who believe Bo was gaining so much popularity in China that he was set up.

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"For China-watchers, this is unbelievable, this scandal, ... there are a thousand theories," Kristof said.

Last week, a state TV announcement said he had been summarily stripped from all his posts.

His wife, Gu Kailai, is now under arrest as the leading suspect in the Heywood murder, and the Reuters news agency is reporting that Heywood may have been killed in a dispute over his cut in illicitly moving what was called a large sum of money out of China for Gu.

As if all this isn't sordid enough, attention is shifting to the lavish party-high-living style of their son, Bo Guagua, educated at Oxford and now a master's student at Harvard University.

His Facebook page details nights of women and alcohol but doesn't answer how the son of a party official who makes a modest income can live like the child of royalty.

All this has become a political earthquake for the Communist Party, embarrassed by the spreading scandal and with other top leaders who have children being educated overseas.

Observers think the party is hoping that swift action will make Bo's case disappear fast before the people of China start wondering out loud if this kind of corruption reaches all the way to the top.

  • Barry Petersen

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