Chinese state-media on Wednesday implicated former high-ranking politician Bo Xilai for the first time in the murder committed by his wife, but avoided naming him directly. Nevertheless, the move clears the way for possible criminal proceedings against Bo in connection with the case.
Incidentally, a Chinese court had convicted Bo's wife Gu Kailai and Zhang Xiaojun, a family attendant, last month for murdering British businessman Neil Heywood. Subsequently, Gu was given a suspended death sentence, implying that the death sentence will be commuted to life imprisonment if she does not commit offenses in the next two years. Zhang was given a nine-year jail term for his part in the murder.
Further, Wang Lijun, former police chief of Chongqing city who was at the center of the scandal, was put on trial in the city of Chengdu earlier this week. The charges against Wang included attempting to defect, abusing power, taking bribes and "bending the law for selfish ends."
Wang's two-day trial ended on Tuesday, and a verdict is awaited. He had pleaded guilty to the charges and faces decades in prison if convicted. Incidentally, Bo and Wang were close for a decade and it was Bo who brought the latter to Chongqing in 2008 to launch an operation against the city's mafia.
In its report covering Wang's trial, Xinhua said the former police chief had attempted on January 28 to tell "the Chongqing party committee's main responsible person at the time" about his suspicions about Gu. It added that Wang was "angrily rebuked and slapped in the face by the official" the following morning.
The Xinhua report did not identify Bo by name, but he was at the helm of the ruling Communist party in the city of Chongqing when Heywood was found dead at a hotel in the city in November 2011. Although initial police reports suggested that Heywood had died of excessive drinking, a re-investigation confirmed he was poisoned.
The Xinhua report also noted that Wang had tried to cover up Gu's involvement in the murder despite having secretly recorded her confession. The state news agency also quoted Gu as saying while testifying at her trial that she told Wang in detail about how she met and poisoned Heywood on the night of November 13. She added that Wang had told her "not to be bothered by the case, which would have nothing to do with me in the future."
There had been no information on Wang after he appeared at the US Consulate in Chengdu early February, until he was formally charged on September 6.. He reportedly spent a night in the Consulate and sought political asylum in the United States.
Media reports at that time said Chinese security forces encircled the Consulate and took Wang to Beijing after he came out the Consulate the following morning. Wang is said to have told US diplomats during his brief stay at the Consulate that Gu Kailai had poisoned Heywood. It is believed that his accusations prompted the re-investigation of Heywood's death.
According to Wednesday's Xinhua report, Wang had "requested the Americans to provide asylum, and wrote an application for political asylum." He also told them he "had received a threat to his personal safety as a result of investigating a case."
The scandal led to Bo's downfall in Chinese politics. Earlier, Bo was widely expected to be elected to the nine-member Standing Committee of the CPC Politburo, the innermost core of power, when the party adopts a once-in-a-decade leadership change at the Party Congress this autumn.
In wake of the scandal, China's ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) expelled Bo from its ranks in May and stripped him of all his remaining leadership positions. The party said he was "suspected of being involved in serious disciplinary violations."
Although his name was not openly mentioned during Gu's prosecution, Bo has not appeared in public since the scandal surfaced. Media reports suggest that he is currently being subjected to an investigation by the Communist Party's disciplinary committee.
by RTT Staff Writer
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