A deputy Chinese mayor, whose stay at a U.S. consulate spurred speculation of a shakeup in China’s leadership, may have flown first-class to Beijing with a vice state security minister a day after meeting American diplomats.
A seat was purchased for Wang Lijun on a Feb. 8 flight from Chengdu to Beijing, according to a website authorized by China’s aviation regulator to show all commercial air ticket information. Another first-class ticket was bought for Qiu Jin, a vice minister at the agency responsible for anti-espionage and covert operations to ensure state security.
Wang, 52, oversaw a crackdown on gangs in the southwestern city of Chongqing that raised the profile of his patron, Chongqing Communist Party Chief Bo Xilai. Wang’s visit to the consulate, which sparked speculation he was seeking refuge there, was confirmed by Chinese and U.S. officials. It comes as Bo bids for a spot on China’s highest decision-making body ahead of a leadership change this year. Moving Wang to Beijing shows the seriousness of the case, said Li Cheng of Washington’s Brookings Institution.
“This means that the top leadership is directly involved in this investigation,” Li, who analyzes Chinese elite politics, said in an e-mail. “The incident is extremely serious and we probably only see the tip of the iceberg.”
Bo, 62, met Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Chongqing today. Bo, looking relaxed and animated, sipped tea and nodded as Harper told him that Canadians would remember the trip more for the pair of pandas that will be sent to Canada than for the billions of dollars in contracts signed.
Bo is a member of the 25-person Politburo and the son of one of the founders of the People’s Republic of China. Li and other analysts of China’s leadership said Bo was a candidate for inclusion in the elite Politburo Standing Committee, now with nine members.
The fact that his former police chief sparked an international incident with his trip to the Chengdu consulate may have ended Bo’s career rise, said Willy Wo-Lap Lam, an adjunct professor of Chinese history at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
“Bo’s chance of making the Politburo Standing Committee is finished,” Lam said in an e-mail. “When they do the horse-trading in Beijing, his enemies will definitely use this to shoot down his candidacy.”
Zhou Bo, an official with the Chongqing municipal government’s news office, didn’t immediately answer calls yesterday. A newspaper based in Yunnan reported yesterday that Bo Xilai led a delegation to the southwestern province on a two day trip that ended Feb. 9.
Wang was suffering from “immense mental stress and serious physical discomfort” and was put on “vacation-style treatment,” the Chongqing government’s information office said Feb. 8 after Wang met with U.S. diplomats. His case is now the subject of a government probe, the official Xinhua News Agency said Feb. 9.
A first-class ticket was purchased for Wang on Air China Ltd. flight CA4113, according to a receipt on travelsky.com. The site is authorized by the Civil Aviation Administration of China as a way to verify the authenticity of electronic airline tickets.
A national identity card number on the receipt matches that of the deputy mayor.
Another receipt on travelsky.com showed the purchase of a first-class ticket on the same flight for a 57-year-old man named Qiu Jin. The identity of the man from the receipt matches that of the vice state security minister of the same name, who’s also a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
No Public Website
The Ministry of State Security doesn’t have a public website and only the name of its minister is listed. A profile of Qiu on the CPPCC’s website identifies him as a vice state security minister without saying how long he’s served.
Calls to the state security ministry’s offices in Beijing went unanswered yesterday. Air China company secretary Rao Xinyu said she couldn’t comment.
A photograph of an electronic air ticketing screen that shows Wang and Qiu as passengers of flight CA4113 began circulating on Chinese websites late Feb. 9.
Richard Buangan, a spokesman for the American Embassy in Beijing, wouldn’t comment on the reason for Wang’s visit to the Chengdu consulate. Wang left the consulate of his own volition, Buanguan said, declining to comment on reports of a heavy police presence outside the post.
Wang’s and Qiu’s IDs from the receipts were checked on ID5.cn, an identity verification website where users can call up an individual’s photograph by providing a name and identification number. The site’s operator, Beijing Guozhengtong, provides this service through a partnership with the Ministry of Public Security, Xinhua reported in 2008.
On Feb. 2, the Chongqing government said Wang had been relieved of his police duties and put in charge of areas including sanitation, athletics and education.