Amidst the distraction of the widespread anti-Japanese demonstrations raging across China, Wang Lijun, the former police chief of the city of Chongqing, finally emerged from seven months of “vacation-style therapy” for a court hearing Tuesday in the western Chinese city of Chengdu. He faced charges there of defection, taking bribes, bending the law for selfish ends and abuse of power.
According the Chengdu Intermediate Court, Wang did not contest the charges. In February he helped trigger the biggest political scandal China has seen in a generation.
Wang was the right-hand man to disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai. Back in February, after a falling out with Bo, Wang walked into the U.S. consulate in Chengdu with evidence he said implicated Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, in the murder of a British businessman, Neil Heywood.
After 33 hours in the consulate, Wang eventually turned himself over Beijing authorities for protection against Bo’s security forces. Wang soon disappeared into what the government called “vacation-style therapy,” but his evidence eventually helped bring down Bo. It is still a mystery to most Westerners what “vacation-style therapy” means, but it was probably coined specifically for Wang.
Based on the crime scene evidence collected by Wang, Gu was found guilty last month of the Heywood murder but received a suspended death sentence. It was also revealed during Gu’s trial that Wang had initially used his position as police chief helped to cover up Gu’s involvement in the murder.
A guilty verdict is expected to be a done deal; Chinese courts have a 98 percent conviction rate. However, according to China’s Xinhua News Agency, the court recognized that without Wang’s cooperation, the Gu Kailai scandal might never have seen the light of day.
“Wang had produced important clues for exposing serious offenses committed by others and played a key part in the investigation of these cases,” the statement from Xinhua read. “This can be considered as performing major meritorious services.”
This could signal that the court may consider a lighter sentence whenever the verdict is announced. A sentencing date was not announced today but is widely expected before the Chinese National Day holidays, which begin on Oct. 1.
Wang was also accused of accepting 3.05 million yuan (close to $500,000) in bribes.
With Wang’s trial near a conclusion and with Gu’s sentencing out of the way, the Chinese government is one step closer to closing the book on this embarrassing chapter in Chinese politics before the transition of power that is widely expected to take place in late October.
However, the most sensitive case is yet to come. The fate of Bo Xilai, who still has many supporters, guarantees not to be as straightforward.