China's most famous cop has been placed on leave for "vacation-style therapy" after a rumored U.S. asylum bid that had an American consulate surrounded by Chinese police.
This morning in China began with chatter that an incident had unfolded overnight outside the U.S. consulate in the western Chinese city of Chengdu. Pictures began to spread across Sina Weibo, China's answer to Twitter, showing Chengdu police blocking off the streets around the consulate.
A name, Wang LiJun, began to trend alongside those pictures on the micro-blogging site. By mid-morning, searches for his name soon became blocked, usually a tell tale sign of a sensitive issue.
Wang , 52 , is the vice mayor of neighboring Chongqing and until last week was the city-province's top cop credited in leading a successful crackdown on organized crime. A martial arts expert, he gained reputation for his tough and sometimes allegedly legally-tenuous gang-busting ways. He even inspired a TV series called "Iron-Blooded Police Spirits" based on his exploits. According to Hong Kong's South China Morning Post, Wang accumulated 20 scars from knife and bullet wounds and was once in a coma for 10 days after battling the triads.
More importantly, however, Wang, an ethnic Mongolian whose Mongolian name "Wuen Bart" means "Truth Hero" was seen as the right-hand man of Chongqing's powerful and ambitious Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai.
It is no secret that the charismatic and often times controversial Bo has been angling for a promotion to Beijing this fall when the country's central leadership is expected to reshuffle.
Last week Wang was suddenly stripped of his law enforcement duties and reassigned to a portfolio which included educational and the environmental issues. Instantly speculation began whether Wang had fallen out with Bo.
Rumors came to a head this morning when Wang's name became linked with the police cordon outside the U.S. consulate in Chengdu.
"We can't comment on what happened in Chengdu (Tuesday) night," Richard Buangan, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Beijing told ABC News today. Buangan told Reuters that "there was no threat to the (Chengdu) consulate yesterday and the U.S. government did not request increased security around the compound."
It is still unclear whether Wang made it inside the consulate or where he is at the moment. The day has been full of questions and unconfirmed reports.
The only allusion to his whereabouts came from his employer the Chongqing Municipal Government, which posted on its Weibo: "It is understood that Deputy Mayor Wang Lijun, who has suffered overwork and immense mental stress for a long time, is seriously indisposed physically. He is currently undergoing vacation style therapy."
ABC News calls to the Chongqing Municipality spokesperson's office Wednesday went unanswered.
Whatever transpired between Wang and his longtime patron Bo Xilai is now being seen in many circles as a blow to Bo's public image. Especially since the usually media savvy Bo rested so much of his reputation on his Wang-led anti-gang campaign. Some analysts have even begun to question Bo's own political future.
Despite being high-profiled, Wang was essentially a top city cop. If he really was seeking asylum, the move is seen as an act of desperation.
The most pressing question, however, is what exactly does "vacation-style therapy" entail?
The ABC News Beijing Bureau contributed to this report