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China police chief sought asylum in US, says Chinese media

Wang Lijun, a former police chief now implicated in a scandal involving the poisoning of a British businessman, fled to a nearby US Consulate to request asylum, according to Chinese state media. 

By Charles HutzlerAssociated Press / September 19, 2012

China's Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai (l.) and Deputy Mayor of Chongqing Wang Lijun (r.) sing the national anthem during a session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference of the Chongqing Municipal Committee, in Chongqing municipality in this January 2012 file photo.




Hours after she poisoned a British businessman, Gu Kailai reached out to a trusted ally: Wang Lijun. Gu was the wife of Bo Xilai, the Communist Party boss in the inland Chinese megalopolis of Chongqing; Wang was Bo's chief of police and longtime collaborator.

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According to an account released Wednesday by the government's Xinhua News Agency, when a panicked Gu turned to Wang for assistance following the murder, Wang helped her cover up the crime.

Within weeks, his relations with Gu became strained. He approached "the Chongqing party committee's main responsible person at the time" — an apparent reference to Bo himself — to tell him about the murder. For that, Wang "received an angry rebuke and was boxed in the ears," Xinhua said.

Only then, according to the account, did Wang flee to the U.S. Consulate in nearby Chengdu and request asylum from American diplomats.

Wang's flight in February set off the seamiest political scandal China has seen in decades. The fallout included an end to Bo's career as a rising star in party politics, his wife's conviction for murder, and serious complications for an insular Chinese leadership attempting to transfer power to a new generation this fall.

Xinhua's account is a sanitized version of Wang's trial that ended Tuesday on charges of bribery, abuse of power and defection, but is the fullest explanation by the government of how the scandal unfolded in its early days. It also conflicts with statements by U.S. officials and diplomats that Wang, a potential source on China's opaque high-level politics, never sought asylum before he voluntarily left the consulate into the custody of Chinese authorities.

The account is the latest sign that after seven months of debate, Bo's fellow leaders are nearing a resolution on his fate — whether merely to expel him from the party or prosecute him on criminal charges.

A flamboyant, telegenic son of a revolutionary leader, Bo was a rare politician with a popular national profile and deep connections in the top rungs of the party, government and military. Since being suspended from the leadership in April, his name had not been mentioned in previous statements about the scandal — not even obliquely.

In the Xinhua account, Bo's Chongqing comes across as a place where Wang reigned as police chief unbridled by the law and where the powerful traded favors, even over murder.

It said Wang took money from two businessmen to buy and rent housing in Chongqing and Beijing. In return, when they asked, he ordered suspects released from police detention. He put people under electronic surveillance without authorization.

Bo's wife, Gu, confided in Wang last year that she and her son were in a business dispute with Briton Neil Heywood, and that he had allegedly threatened her son's life, Xinhua said. Wang and Gu first met in 2007 and had maintained close relations since. Wang put Heywood under surveillance.

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