China Sentences Ex-Police Chief to Prison

Posted September 23rd, 2012 at 9:50 pm (UTC-5)
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A Chinese court has sentenced to 15 years in prison the ex-police chief who set off a political scandal and brought down top politician Bo Xilai.

The official Xinhua news agency says Wang Lijun was guilty of defection, abuse of power, bribe-taking and bending the law for selfish ends.

Last February, Wang fled to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, where he told American diplomats that Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, had murdered a British businessman in a business dispute. Gu was later convicted of the murder, while Bo was stripped of his party posts.

Xinhua reported that Wang did not object to the charges during the tightly orchestrated two-day trial, which was closed to foreign media.

In Xinhua's official account of the trial, prosecutors accused Wang of initially covering up Gu's involvement in the murder of Neil Heywood. They also said he applied for political asylum at the U.S. consulate before surrendering to Chinese police.

After his alleged defection attempt failed, Wang was said to have re-opened the investigation into Heywood's death and cooperated with authorities. Because of this, prosecutors suggested that he receive a more lenient sentence.

But the account of the trial also shed possible light on the fate of Bo, who was considered a rising star in Chinese politics. Although the report did not specifically mention Bo's name, it suggested that the local Communist Party's “main responsible person at the time” knew about Gu's possible involvement in the murder, but did nothing.

Some observers say that small reference could implicate Bo in the crime, meaning he could face criminal charges. Bo has not been seen or heard from in months, and is under investigation by the party for “serious” violations of discipline.

The scandal came at a particularly sensitive time for the Communist Party, which is preparing to hand over power to a new generation of leaders at a party congress that is expected to be held in just weeks.