The former police chief of Chongqing, whose flight to a U.S. consulate in February sparked a crisis that shook China’s Communist Party, will face trial next week on charges including abuse of power and taking bribes.
Wang Lijun will go on trial Sept. 18, an official at the Intermediate People’s Court in Chengdu who would only give his surname, He, said today. Chengdu is the location of the U.S. diplomatic outpost where Wang brought evidence implicating the family of his former boss, ousted Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai, in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.
The decision about Wang’s trial date comes as Communist Party leaders grapple with a once-in-a-decade leadership transition that’s been complicated by Bo’s ouster in March and the recent public absence of Vice President Xi Jinping. The party still hasn’t announced the date of the congress where Xi has been expected to be anointed China’s next president.
Wang allegedly “neglected his duty and bent the law for personal gain” to shield Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, from charges that she plotted Heywood’s murder in November, the state-run Xinhua News Agency said earlier this month. Gu was convicted in August of poisoning Heywood.
Wang headed Chongqing’s police force from 2009 until early February. He oversaw a crackdown on gangs that raised the profile of Bo’s “Chongqing model,” with its focus on getting tough on crime and fighting social inequality.
After he was removed as police chief, Wang told diplomats in Chengdu that Gu murdered Heywood, according to U.S. officials briefed on the matter. After a night with American officials, Wang turned himself over to government authorities.
Bo, 63, committed “serious violations of discipline” in the case, Xinhua reported in April. He has not been publicly charged with any crime and hasn’t been seen in public since the end of the National People’s Congress in Beijing in March.
Wang’s trial will be conducted “in accordance with the law,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a briefing in Beijing last week.
Xi, meanwhile, has not appeared in public since Sept. 1, leading to speculation that he may be ill. Citing unidentified people from China, the Hong Kong Economic Times reported today that he has only a minor injury and speculation that he has cancer or was in a car accident isn’t true.