Amid the rumors surfacing about the status of Chongqing vice-mayor and former police chief Wang Lijun, after locals reported a police presence outside the U.S. consulate in Chengdu and Chonqging authorities announced that Wang had accepted “vacation-style treatment” early last week, few facts have emerged in statements from both American and Chinese officials. A U.S. state department spokeswoman confirmed that Wang visited the U.S. consulate in Chengdu on Monday and that he “left on his own volition.” China’s Foreign Ministry also confirmed Wang’s consulate visit, though so far neither side has responded to speculation that China’s most famous policeman asked for asylum.
Media outlets reported that Wang flew to Beijing with the deputy head of China’s State Security Ministry on February 8, based on passenger flight details pulled from a travel website backed by China’s aviation regulator. Li Cheng of The Brookings Institution told Bloomberg that moving Wang to Beijing demonstrates the seriousness of the situation:
“This means that the top leadership is directly involved in this investigation,” Li, who analyzes Chinese elite politics, said in an e-mail. “The incident is extremely serious and we probably only see the tip of the iceberg.”
Chongqing native and U.S.-based author Xujun Eberlein pieces together a version of the incident based on “informed speculation” she gathered during a just-completed China trip:
First, Wang Lijun was not seeking asylum with the US as some have guessed. He was running away from Bo Xilai and seeking the protection of Beijing’s Party Central, and he used the US consulate as a safe house, possibly also a message relay point. He waited an entire day until the people sent from Beijing arrived, at which point he walked out of the US consulate “of his own volition,” as state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland put it.
Wang then walked
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