Britain asked the Chinese to investigate the death of Neil Heywood after it emerged last week that the wife of a senior Communist Party official is being investigated for Heywood’s “intentional homicide”.
The 41-year-old was found dead on November 15 in Chongqing in central China.
A newspaper report yesterday claimed that the Foreign Office was facing increasing questions over delays in its intervention.
The British authorities did not raise questions with the Chinese until three months after Heywood died, despite China-based British businessmen urging the Foreign Office to intervene, the newspaper said.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “As we became more concerned about this case, including following suggestions from the business community, we took the decision to ask the Chinese authorities to launch an investigation.
“We acted as soon as we thought concerns about the case justified it.
“We are pleased that the Chinese have now launched that investigation. We were in constant contact with the family throughout and kept them informed of our actions.”
Prime Minister David Cameron said on Wednesday during a Far East tour he was pleased the Chinese authorities were taking action.
He said: “We did ask the Chinese to hold an investigation and we are pleased that they are now doing that. It is very important we get to the truth of what happened in this very disturbing case.”
Heywood was a friend of the family of Bo Xilai, a former rising star in Chinese politics who served as party chief in Chongqing. At the time, Chinese officials said the British expat died of “excessive alcohol consumption”. Friends questioned this, saying the businessman was not a heavy drinker.