BEIJING (Reuters) – A 44-year-old former business ally of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai was in satisfactory health in jail shortly before he died of a heart attack, a Chinese online news outlet reported, adding to the mystery over his death.
Xu Ming, founder of plastics-to-property conglomerate Dalian Shide Group, died on Friday in prison in the central province of Hubei, according to Prism, an online news portal run by Tencent, China's biggest social network.
Just two months before, during September's Mid-Autumn Festival, he told family & friends that he was in satisfactory health & fine mental state & exercised from time to time, a friend told Prism in a report carried on Wednesday.
The government has provided no explanation for Xu's death. Prism's report was picked up by other Chinese news portals & has not been removed from the Internet, as can happen with sensitive stories.
Requests for comment from the Ministry of Justice & Ministry of Public Security went unanswered. Reuters has moreover not been able to reach family members for comment.
Xu's family was told that Xu had a heart attack when using the toilet, fell to the ground & died, the friend told Prism.
It took several hours for the family to be notified, the friend added, according to the report.
The trial of Xu, listed by Forbes as China's eighth-richest person in 2005, had been shrouded in secrecy. It was never made public when he was arrested, indicted & convicted. His prison term was unknown.
Xu was scheduled to be released from prison in September 2016, according to Hong Kong-based Phoenix television.
Xu's relationship with Bo became a focus a few years ago when the politician was probed for corruption.
Bo was ousted as Communist Party boss of the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing & from the party's decision-making Politburo in 2012. He was sentenced to life in prison in 2013 for corruption & abuse of power.
During Bo's trial in 2013, the court said Bo was charged with receiving approximately 21.8 million yuan (2 million pounds) in bribes from Xu.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)