In February, Wang Lijun’s visit to the US consulate in Chengdu knocked over the first domino in the largest and most publicized political scandal that China has seen in decades. Since the ex-vice-mayor and police chief bolted to the American diplomatic mission nearly 7 months ago, his boss – former Chongqing Mayor Bo Xilai – has been purged from power, and Gu Kailai – Bo’s Wife – has been convicted of murdering a British citizen. Wang has been in detention since he left the US consulate, but was only recently charged with mutliple offenses. The New York Times reports:
A once powerful Chongqing police official at the center of the scandal that felled the senior Communist leader Bo Xilai was charged with defection, abuse of power and corruption, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday.
[…]Mr. Bo was not mentioned in the Xinhua report, suggesting the possibility that he will not be formally linked to Mr. Wang’s crimes. Instead, the report said that Mr. Wang helped Ms. Gu, although it did not specify how.
The report did say, however, that Mr. Wang abused power by illegally snooping on people as part of a campaign against organized crime in Chongqing. Human rights groups say the crackdown was arbitrary and many innocent people were convicted. If Mr. Wang is charged with this, however, it could be hard to shield Mr. Bo, who took credit for the crime sweep.
Reuters has more on the Xinhua report. After further detailing the charges of illegal surveillance, the article speculates what Wang might be looking at if these charges stick:
[…]the Xinhua announcement said Wang had abused investigation techniques, an accusation that may reflect rumors that he had bugged other officials, including central officials visiting Chongqing.
“Wang illegally used technical surveillance measures, either without the approval of authorities or by forging approval documents,” said Xinhua.
Wang could face a sentence of up to life in jail on the defection charge, and serious bribery charges can attract the death penalty.
An AP article reports that, while Wang is looking at a menacing list of charges, his cooperation with state security officials may have shielded him from the more serious crime of treason, which had been widely speculated as Wang’s fate. The article also asks why Bo Xilai’s name was conspicuously absent from the Xinhua report:
Xinhua’s report also did not mention Bo, though Wang’s indictment would seem to clear the way for an announcement about Bo’s fate, something that had been expected well before the party meeting that is believed to be scheduled for mid-October.
However, University of Miami China expert June Teufel Dreyer said authorities might be holding back in the face of a lack of consensus or uncertainty how to proceed within such a tight time frame.
“The door’s still open to prosecute Bo at a future time, and it is possible that Wang’s trial will attempt to draw Bo into the murder-cover up intrigue,” Dreyer said.
“The more attention can be diverted from so high-level, and reputedly fairly popular, personage, the better,” she said.
Wang has been charged by authorities in Chengdu, and Global Times reports that his trial will begin “at a later date” in the city where he sought US protection earlier this year.
Also see a BBC News profile of the fallen supercop. For more on Wang Lijun, including the once-proposed but presumably forgotten Hong Kong crime film chronicling his career in police work, see prior CDT coverage.