Trial Date Set for Former Chongqing Police Chief

Former Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun, charged last week with defection, abuse of power and corruption, is to stand trial next Tuesday in Chengdu. Officials have promised an open trial, but CNN’s Steven Jiang reports that, as in recent proceedings against Gu Kailai and Zhang Xiaojun, all the seats in the courtroom have already been reserved. The defection charges relate to Wang’s flight in February to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, which brought about the fall of former Chongqing Party chief Bo Xilai and the revelation of his wife’s murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.

From Gillian Wong at The Associated Press:

“In line with the Gu Kailai case, the Chinese leadership certainly would like to complete the trial of Wang Lijun well before the 18th party congress to separate these cases from Bo Xilai,” said Joseph Cheng, a political science professor at the City University of Hong Kong.

[…] Wang has been charged with defection, bribe-taking, “bending the law for selfish ends” and abuse of power, though details have not been provided. State media announcements about his indictment did not mention Bo.

Shenyang-based attorney Wang Yuncai, reportedly a close friend of Wang’s, had previously said she has been approved by the court to serve as Wang Lijun’s defense lawyer. Reached by phone Friday, Wang Yuncai would say only she was in a meeting before hanging up.

George Washington University law professor Donald Clarke commented on Wang’s charges and possible sentencing at China Law Prof Blog last week:

[… The] prescribed punishment for defection is surprisingly (to me, anyway) light: up to five years in most cases, and not more than ten years even in serious cases where you possess state secrets. […]

The crimes of perversion of the law, abuse of power, and bribe-taking are respectively punishable by a maximum of 15 years in especially serious cases, 7 years in especially serious cases, and death in especially serious cases. In each case, however, substantially lower punishments of at most a few years’ imprisonment are also possible. What will be interesting to see is whether fleeing to a foreign consulate and revealing at best highly embarrassing and at worst highly damaging secrets is deemed to be less threatening to the state than, say, drafting a political manifesto, for which Liu Xiaobo received an 11-year sentence.

See more on Wang Lijun, Bo Xilai and Gu Kailai via CDT.