Xinhua reports that former Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun has been sentenced to fifteen years in prison “for bending the law for selfish ends, defection, abuse of power and bribe-taking”.
Wang, the former vice mayor and police chief of southwest China’s Chongqing municipality, was charged with several crimes and received a combined punishment for all offenses, according to a verdict announced by the Chengdu City Intermediate People’s Court in southwest China’s Sichuan Province.
Wang received seven years in prison for the charge of bending the law for selfish ends, two years in prison and deprivation of his political rights for one year for the charge of defection, two years in prison for the power abuse charge and nine years in prison for the charge of bribe-taking. He received a combined punishment of 15 years in prison and deprivation of his political rights for one year.
Wang stated to the court that he would not appeal the sentence.
Defence lawyer Wang Yuncai suggested to The Telegraph’s Malcolm Moore, however, that there is some possibility of Wang’s early release on medical grounds:
“I cannot say how many years he will serve,” she said. “If he gets the chance to go to a hospital for a serious illness then there is no minimum sentence that he will have to serve.” She declined to comment further.
Mr Wang appeared in rosy health at his trial, and clips of him giving evidence, dressed not in the standard orange boiler suit of Chinese prisoners but in a crisp white shirt, were broadcast on national television.
However, one diplomatic source suggested in the run-up to his trial that he was in poor physical and mental health.
A psychiatrist who knew Mr Wang in Chongqing also said he exhibited “clear signs of mental disturbance” in the days before he fled to the US consulate in February.
Wang’s sentence is the latest omen of the fate of his former superior, Bo Xilai, for whom its relative lightness—Wang could have faced the death penalty—may be a bad sign. A nine-page Xinhua account of Wang’s trial explained last week that the defence had sought a reduced sentence in recognition of his “meritorious reporting” of others’ crimes. The account also implied that Bo had been aware of his wife Gu Kailai’s killing of Neil Heywood for over a week before Wang finally brought it to light, suggesting his complicity in the cover-up for which Wang, Gu and several others have already been prosecuted.
Caixin editor-in-chief Hu Shuli alluded to the possibility of a Bo trial in an editorial on Friday:
The magnitude of power Wang had at his disposal during the famous Chongqing “anti-mafia” campaign and the cover-up of Heywood’s death was a public outrage. But even more egregious was just how quickly local political and police forces moved to smother Wang when he fell out of favor with the Bo family.
The rule of law is written in China’s constitution, and states that consensus between the ruling party and the public is a goal. The trials of Bogu and Wang, and the shards of truth that have since emerged, were an important exercise in the rule of law.
According to the prosecutor, Wang “revealed important information of others’ legal activities” and “played an important role in the investigation of relevant cases.” Perhaps this represents only a prelude to another trial, which can serve as the final installment to the saga and open the door to legal reforms. While nothing has been a foregone conclusion with regard to the handling of the cases, it is clear that the establishment of a judicial system that can make horizontal and vertical checks on power must be implemented with greater urgency than ever.
In the wake of Wang’s trial and sentencing, the South China Morning Post examined how Bo’s criminal prosecution might come about:
So far, Bo has only been accused of breaching internal party discipline. But experts say the public citing of Bo’s angry rebuke of Wang has raised the likelihood that he too will face criminal charges, probably after the party congress.
Before then, party leaders could first expel Bo from the party and hand him over for criminal investigation.
“The prosecutors said Wang exposed leaders to major crimes by others,” said Li Zhuang, a Beijing lawyer who opposed Wang and Bo for mounting a sweeping crackdown on foes in the name of fighting organised crime. Bo was the likely target of Wang’s allegations, said Li.
“That was a slap around the ears that changed history,” Li said of Bo’s alleged actions against Wang. “Otherwise, Bo might still be in power and hoping to rise higher.”
Li himself faced charges, later dropped, of “fabricating evidence” in defence of a client during one of Bo’s signature anti-Mafia campaigns. AFP’s account today of Wang’s rise and fall describes how he personally “confronted Li at the airport, in front of dozens of police cars, their lights flashing, greeting him with the words ‘Li Zhuang, we meet again!’ before taking him into custody, the lawyer said.”
Another profile by The Guardian’s Tania Branigan also describes Wang’s expansive flamboyant side, as well as his extreme dedication to police work:
He claimed to have wrestled a suicide bomber to the floor just seconds before the man detonated his explosives. He boasted about love letters from awed young women and that his classmates at police academy had nicknamed him “tiger general”. But for all the self-mythologising, he succeeded in winning popular acclaim.
[…] Now 52, Wang, grew up in north-eastern Liaoning province and served in the army – where he met his wife – before joining the police, initially as a traffic policeman.
His devotion to duty was such that he chose to holiday in Beijing, where – rather than sightseeing – he spent hours standing at major road junctions, watching the traffic officers work.
Once back home, he used the photographs he had taken to practise his gestures and hand signals.