The right-hand man of former Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai (薄熙來) will go on trial next week, a court said yesterday, the latest stage in a scandal that has rocked the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) before a once-a-decade power handover.
Wang Lijun’s (王立軍) flight to the US consulate in Chengdu earlier this year started the scandal that brought down Bo, a high-profile leader, and led to the conviction of his wife, Gu Kailai (谷開來), for murder.
Wang, who worked as police chief in Chongqing, the city Bo ran until his downfall, was detained after he fled to the consulate under cover of darkness and reportedly told US diplomats of his suspicions about Gu.
“Wang Lijun’s case will be heard on September 18,” a spokesman for the Chengdu Intermediate People’s Court said of Wang’s trial on bribery, defection and abuse of power charges.
Xinhua news agency quoted an indictment earlier this month that said Wang had “known beforehand” that Gu was under “serious suspicion” of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood, without taking action.
Gu was handed a suspended death sentence for the murder last month, and four of Wang’s senior police officers in Chongqing were found guilty of being involved in the murder cover-up.
The bribery charges leveled against Wang make it possible that he could be handed a death-penalty, but Jean-Pierre Cabestan, professor of politics at Hong Kong Baptist University said Wang was unlikely to face such a harsh sentence.
“I expect Wang will be sentenced to a prison sentence of several decades, a heavy penalty, but short of life imprisonment,” he said.
“[CCP authorities] are trying to clean things up before the [CCP’s 18th National] congress,” Cabestan said.