The former police chief in the southwestern municipality of Chongqing who triggered China’s biggest political scandal in decades stood trial on Tuesday and did not contest charges of defection and bribery, court officials said.
Wang Lijun, who fled to a United States Consulate in Chengdu on February 6, had served as the right hand-man to suspended Communist Party of China (CPC) Politburo member Bo Xilai, who was the party chief in Chongqing before his sacking in April.
Mr. Wang fled to the Consulate after a falling out between the two men over investigations into the role of Mr. Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, in the death of a British businessman and family associate, Neil Heywood. By doing so, he brought into the public domain a political scandal that has embarrassed the CPC weeks ahead of a once-in-ten year leadership transition, in which Mr. Bo had been expected to play a key role before his purging.
Mr. Wang fled to the U.S. Consulate fearing for his life, according to an account he gave U.S. officials. He had been demoted by Mr. Bo in January after central authorities began investigating him, and reportedly confronted the Politburo member with evidence of his wife’s role in the murder, which he had initially helped cover up. Ms. Gu was on August 20 found guilty of homicide, but spared the death penalty – she was given a death sentence with a two-year reprieve.
Mr. Wang, analysts said, is expected to be given a similar – possibly even lighter – sentence when a verdict is announced in coming days. As the trial concluded on Tuesday, prosecutors noted that Mr. Wang had, at the U.S. Consulate, turned himself in to State Security officials, which under China’s Criminal Law provides grounds for lighter punishment. Mr. Wang had also “produced important clues for exposing serious offences committed by others”, prosecutors said, suggesting that he had possibly helped build a case against Mr. Bo, whose fate remains undecided and who was not named in the proceedings.
A closed-door trial was held on Monday to hear the more sensitive charges of defection and abuse of power. Prosecutors said Mr. Wang had “as a state functionary who knew state secrets, left his post without authorisation and defected to another country's consulate while he was performing his official duty.” He was also accused of “using technical reconnaissance measures” without approval of authorities. Mr. Wang had earlier been accused of wire-tapping State leaders when they visited Chongqing, according to CPC sources.
On Tuesday, Mr. Wang faced two other charges, of covering up the murder of Heywood and of accepting bribes. Prosecutors accused of him illegally accepting money and property worth 3.05 million yuan (US$ 484,127).
Prosecutors also praised Mr. Wang for cooperating with authorities in the investigation, suggesting he might be given a lighter than expected punishment. They said he had provided evidence of Ms. Gu’s involvement in the murder and “produced important clues for exposing serious offences committed by others”, which they described as “major meritorious services”.
Mr. Wang’s evidence is likely to play a crucial role in the case being built by authorities against Mr. Bo. After settling the fates of Ms.Gu and Mr. Wang, the CPC is keen to close the chapter on the scandal by addressing Mr. Bo’s case before the 18th Party Congress, expected to be held in late October.
Mr. Bo is likely to be expelled from the party at the last plenary meeting of the current 17th Central Committee, which may be held in coming days. Some of his supporters – he enjoyed a wide network of allies as the “princeling” son of founding CPC revolutionary Bo Yibo and on the Left – are in favour of settling his case with his expulsion. President Hu Jintao and other top leaders are, however, likely to press for him to also be tried by judicial authorities. The previous two Politburo members who were expelled for corruption – the former Beijing mayor Chen Xitong and the purged Shanghai party chief Chen Liangyu – were given jail terms of 16 and 18 years respectively on corruption charges.