Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Police chief Wang Lijun jailed in murder cover-up

Wang Lijun, the ex-police chief at the centre of China's biggest political scandal in years, has been sentenced to 15 years in jail. His conviction leaves only the disgraced politician Bo Xilai awaiting his fate. But even when the case finally comes to an end. there will still remain doubts and questions in many people's minds.


A Chinese court in Chengdu sentenced Wang Lijun to 15 years in prison and deprived him of his political rights for one year after finding him guilty of "bending the law for selfish ends, defection, abuse of power and bribe-taking", according to the state news agency Xinhua.

Wang, the former chief of police in the city of Chongqing, where Bo Xilai was Communist Party leader, had faced up to 20 years in jail, but prosecutors called his co-operation "meritorious service".

He had not contested the charges against him. It is difficult to get a clear picture of the facts or the details presented to the court since foreign media and the public were excluded from the proceedings.


To some observers it seems somewhat erroneous that Wang might have been involved in the conspiracy to cover up the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, given it was Wang himself that had blown the lid off the whole affair when he apparently sought sanctuary in the US consulate in Chengdu earlier this year.

The court asserted that Wang had hidden a recording of Gu Kailai's account of the killing of Neil Heywood from the police. However, it was claimed that a conflict arose between Wang and Gu, after which Wang told investigators to ''re-collect, sort through and carefully keep the evidence'' from the case.

What was not explained is why he had fled to the US consulate, and why the investigation into Neil Heywood's murder began much later. It could well be that Wang had attempted to obtain asylum by fleeing to the US consulate, having set the ball rolling in the investigation of Heywood's murder. But there was no explanation from the court as to why he had previously sought a meeting with British officials nor, given he was not forced to leave the US consulate, he had decided to hand himself into the hands of authorities after a standoff lasting many hours.

As Wang Lijun sat in court both his wife and daughter observed the proceedings. It is possible that what persuaded him to face a trial was that he feared for his family and how they might be treated.

Show trial

The trial has been been one of several show trials, though the reporting of the events have been carefully controlled. The state media has tried to sweep the whole affair under the rug, but in an organised and controlled fashion, attempting at the same time to show it is making great efforts to sweep away corruption. After failing to quell rumours following the ousting of Bo Xilai in March, the state media eventually broke its silence and admitted it was investing the death of the British businessman Neil Heywood, though it drew no links between Wang Lijun's fleeing to the US consulate nor Bo Xilai's purge from office.

There then followed months of speculation and rumour surrounding Bo's family, including his son Bo Guagua and his wife Gu Kailai. But is was not until late July that Gu Kailai was arrested and state media announced she was to face charges of murder along with a house servant.

Gu Kailai was given a suspended death sentence for the crime. At a separate trial on 10th August, four senior police officers from Chongqing admitted covering up evidence linking her to the murder and were jailed for between five and 11 years. As for Bo Xilai, the ousted politician has not been seen in public since the scandal erupted, though he is expected to be tried and convicted.

Drawing a line

China may be hoping to draw a line under the whole sordid saga before the 18th party congress which will see a transition of leadership. But dates on when Bo might face a judge or specific dates for the party congress have yet to be announced

[Xinhua / BBC / Sky / CNN / Al Jazeera / BBC / Telegraph / Guardian / FT / Daily Mail / NYT / WSJ]

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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