China creeps closer to charging Bo as Heywood death scandal widens
China has implicated former senior politician Bo Xilai in a criminal act for the first time – while avoiding naming him directly in a published account by state media of the trial of his one-time police chief.
The Bo scandal has rocked Beijing, exposing rifts within the ruling Communist Party – elements of which are strong supporters of Mr Bo’s populist, left-leaning policies – at a time when China is preparing for a once-in-a-decade leadership change.
Wang Lijun, ex-police chief of Chongqing, tried to tell “the Chongqing party committee’s main responsible person at the time” – in other words, Mr Bo, who at the time was the city’s Communist Party boss – that Mr Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, was suspected of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood.
But Wang was “angrily rebuked and had his ears boxed”, according to Xinhua news agency’s official account of Wang’s trial this week in Chengdu, a city near Chongqing.
The virtually unmistakable reference to Mr Bo increases the chances of him facing criminal charges, possibly for covering up a crime or corruption.
So far, Mr Bo has only been accused of breaching internal party discipline. He has not responded publicly to the allegations against him.
Wang, 52, lifted the lid on the murder and cover-up of Mr Heywood in February when he went to the US consulate in Chengdu and, according to sources, told envoys there about the murder that would later bring down Mr Bo. Within two months of Wang’s 24-hour visit to the consulate, Mr Bo was sacked as party boss and from the Communist Party’s Politburo, and Gu was accused of having poisoned Mr Heywood.
A court has since given Gu a suspended death sentence for the killing, late last year.
Xinhua said that the day after Gu poisoned Mr Heywood in a Chongqing hotel, Wang met her and she acknowledged what she had done. Wang secretly recorded that conversation, but did not act on Gu’s admission.
“At the time, selfish motives were guiding me,” he said.
However, as the weeks went on, Xinhua said several of Wang’s colleagues became targets of “illegal investigations” and he began to feel he was in danger from Gu, and so decided to flee to the US mission.
“Inside the US consulate, after Wang spoke briefly with consular officials, he stated that because his personal safety had been threatened, he requested shelter with the US side, and made an application for political asylum,” Xinhua said.
The only corruption cases mentioned in the Xinhua account involved close business cronies of the former politician – potentially opening a corruption angle against Mr Bo himself.
Entrepreneur Xu Ming gave two homes to a relative of Wang’s in return for freeing three of his associates, while a former intelligence agent, Yu Junshi was cited as renting expensive villas for Wang, in return for the freedom of another man held by the Chongqing police. Both men were detained in March, after Mr Bo’s sacking.
Mr Bo had been considered a strong candidate for the next top leadership body, which is expected to be unveiled at the party’s 18th congress next month. His downfall has stirred more division than that of any other party leader for 30 years.
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