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Wang Lijun verdict: A grand bargain with Beijing?

Publication Date : 25-09-2012

 

Most called it a scandal. Some preferred to tag it as a drama. But the most appropriate term is probably a mystery.

Despite the 15-year jail sentence for Wang Lijun yesterday, there remain many unanswered questions surrounding the former Chongqing top cop.

The lenient ruling - mind you, he was guilty of defection, abuse of power, bribery and "bending the law for selfish ends" - resurfaces, and lends weight to, conspiratorial concerns.

And top of the list of questions is: Did Wang frame his former boss Bo Xilai, then party leader of the sout-western city, and wife Gu Kailai as part of a larger plot to take down the high-flying politician?

Based on the official account of what happened, such a suspicion seems preposterous.

But for most of the domestic audience, particularly the millions of sceptical Chinese netizens, the story offered so far has not been convincing.

To recap quickly, Gu killed British businessman Neil Heywood last November after money disputes and fears that he would hurt her son, Guagua.

She confessed to Wang, the chief cop in the south-western city. He helped her cover it up, according to the official Xinhua news agency, quoting court documents.

After cremating Heywood, he called Gu to deliver eight words - hua zuo qing yan, jia he xi qu - or "turned to smoke and flew on a crane to the Western paradise". In short, problem solved.

But after his subordinates accepted a dinner by her as a gesture of appreciation, he lashed out at them. He believed the outburst led Gu to have doubts about his loyalty.

Soon, four of his underlings were being investigated "illegally". It is not clear why they were investigated, by whom, or what was illegal about it.

Wang confronted Bo about the murder and was slapped in return. Upset, he changed his mind about the cover-up.

Days later, he was demoted and, fearing for his life, dashed to the US consulate in nearby Chengdu on Feb6, sparking this infamous political upheaval.

For many watchers, it is bizarre that Gu would take the risk of personally poisoning Heywood. Why couldn't she outsource the job?

If the idea was to ensure no one else knew about it, why did she willingly confess to Wang?

Also, why would Wang scold his subordinates after being such an eager party to Gu's crime?

As the chief editor of well- regarded Caixin magazine, Hu Shuli, wrote: "It's clear that Wang was willing to pull every lever within his reach to please (Gu)."

Similarly, why would Gu, and presumably Bo, investigate Wang's men knowing that Wang had a deadly handle on the Bos?

All three - Bo, Gu and Wang - had much to gain by staying united and the world to lose by fighting. Yet, they chose the latter.

Why would Wang, who had long hitched his career to Bo since their days in north-eastern Liaoning, change course?

It leads one to wonder if there were other factors, larger and more powerful, which caused the split. In other words, was Wang an accomplice to destroy Bo?

He had a motive. Earlier media reports have said that Wang was facing anti-graft investigators from the central government last year for alleged corruption when he was police chief of Tieling, a town in Liaoning, from 2000 to 2003.

Wang's successor in Tieling was arrested in May last year, implicating Wang.

He became afraid that Bo, who was angling for promotion to the elite Politburo Standing Committee, may not protect him.

But Bo was vulnerable too. He had enemies. His overt campaigning for promotion, and cultivation of the leftist support base, had offended some leaders who viewed him as a charismatic threat to their positions and their political agenda.

Was Wang's split with the Bos a grand bargain he struck with Beijing? In return for bringing down Bo, Wang gets the mild sentence he just received? Otherwise, corruption can be punished by death.

Was he forced by someone in Beijing to go to the US consulate and thus provide the spark to destroy Bo? Did he even concoct the tale of the Heywood murder?

The world may never know. It is, after all, a mystery. But protagonist Wang seemed years ago to have a sense of foreboding about his fate.

Screenwriter Zhou Lijun, who wrote a TV series in 1996 based on Wang's exploits, recalled in his blog the cop saying: "Its clear to me that I'm just a piece of chewing gum in the mouths of government officials.

"Once they've chewed me until I've lost my taste, I'll be spat onto the ground, and who knows whose shoe I'll end up sticking to."

 

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