The South China Morning Post [$$] is reporting that Wang Lijun, Bo Xilai’s former Chongqing police chief whose February visit to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu sparked China’s biggest political scandal in two decades, will stand trial for treason as early as next month:
The trial will take place in Sichuan province’s capital, Chengdu, home to the US consulate where Wang fled. It remains unknown whether the trial will be open to the press or the public, the sources said. Wang could face the death penalty.
If the trial goes ahead as reported, it will serve as a good indication that the outcome of two other connected cases, those of Bo and of his wife Gu Kailai, a murder suspect in the mysterious death of a British businessman, will also be known shortly.
Hong Kong-based China law expert Ong Yew-kim said yesterday that he believed Wang could hardly be sentenced to death “as he neither killed anyone, nor had been caught in possession of weaponry”.
“But I wouldn’t be surprised if he receives eight or 10 years of jail terms,” Ong said.
Another source in Chongqing said earlier that Wang, despite his defection attempt, had been acknowledged to “have made a major contribution” to investigations into the Bo scandal.
As the investigations into Bo Xilai and his wife have snowballed, the web of people associated with the scandal has grown as well. The New York Times’ Ed Wong and Jonathan Ansfield reported today that with the relationship between Bo Xilai and Wang Lijun hanging by a thread just days before Wang turned up at the U.S. consulate, three close and powerful allies of Bo rushed to Chongqing to broker a peace:
The most famous of the three, Xu Ming, 41, listed by Forbes as China’s eighth-richest person in 2005, had flown in on his private jet. He and the others held separate meetings with Mr. Bo and Mr. Wang. The damage was irreparable. The former intelligence agent, Yu Junshi, rushed home and stuffed a bag with 1.2 million renminbi, or nearly $200,000, to take to a bank with Ma Biao, the other businessman, known for his girth. Then all three fled to Australia within days, fearful of the fallout from a possible investigation of Mr. Bo.
Those figures are now being detained as central suspects or witnesses in the Chinese government’s broad investigation into Mr. Bo’s use of power. His fall from the party’s top echelons has opened a window on how some of his closest allies from his years as a rising official in northeast China became entwined in the social and economic fabric of Chongqing, a fast-growing western municipality of 31 million that Mr. Bo governed for four years. The accounts about those allies, which raise questions about Mr. Bo’s relations with tycoons, are based primarily on interviews with six people associated with the circle, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of facing official scrutiny, and a review of financial documents and company Web sites. Together, they reveal the workings of the shadowy court of one of China’s leaders, and of the panic that set in when these ambitious figures realized their world was about to collapse.
“These are powerful men with their own style,” said one person who has met with Mr. Yu. “It was all very strange, very abnormal, the way they acted at that time.”
The three men who fled to Australia have been held for two months. They left after Mr. Wang’s consulate visit, but returned to China in about 10 days on Mr. Xu’s private jet, thinking that Mr. Bo had avoided serious trouble. They were picked up by the police around the time that Mr. Bo was removed as party chief of Chongqing on March 15, according to several people who knew the men or their friends and families. One with security contacts said almost 60 people had been detained.