The United States has confirmed that a high-ranking politician from southwestern China, reported to be on vacation, has visited a U.S. consulate this week.
A spokeswoman for the State Department, Victoria Nuland, told reporters Wednesday that Deputy Mayor of Chongqing Wang Lijun had a scheduled meeting at the U.S. consulate in the city of Chengdu. She said the meeting probably took place Monday and that Wang left the consulate of his own volition.
She did not provide information on what the meeting was about.
“Well, I think you're referring to reports about the vice mayor of Chongqing – right – City. So his name is Wang Lijun. Wang Lijun did request a meeting at the U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu earlier this week in his capacity as vice mayor. The meeting was scheduled, our folks met with him, he did visit the consulate and he later left the consulate of his own volition. So – and obviously, we don't talk about issues having to do with refugee status, asylum, et cetera.”
The Chongqing city government said Wednesday that Wang was undergoing “vacation-style treatment” because of “long-term overwork, a high level of mental stress and physical exhaustion.” Some news reports suggested that he had sought U.S. asylum.
Since being dismissed last week as Chongqing's police chief, online postings have suggested that Wang had a disagreement with the city's powerful Communist Party secretary, Bo Xilai.
The situation is a potential embarrassment for Bo, who was widely expected to be appointed to a top position in the Communist Party leadership transition later this year.
Wang has gained national prominence after being appointed by Bo to lead a crackdown against organized crime, which resulted in the arrest of scores of senior officials in the city-province.
The Chongqing government's announcement of Weng's sick leave came hours after witnesses reported large numbers of police around the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, blocking off roads around the building.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Beijing said he could not comment on whether Wang was seeking U.S. asylum. China's Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the increased security around the consulate.