A Chinese police chief faces secret trial

Former police chief Wang Lijun once made a name for himself arresting gangsters and politicians. Now he is in the hands of the secretive justice system he once wielded against others.

In this October 2011 file photo, Chongqing city police chief Wang Lijun delivers a speech during the 2nd International Forensic Science Meeting in southwestern China's Chongqing city. Now in the hands of the opaque Chinese justice he once brandished against others, Wang will face charges of defection, bribery, and other crimes Tuesday, in a closely choreographed trial expected to be speedy.

An ex-police chief at the center of China's worst political scandal in decades went on trial Monday in a closed hearing involving state secrets, his lawyer said.

Wang Lijun's trial started unexpectedly a day earlier than the court in the central city of Chengdu had announced.

Defense lawyer Wang Yuncai said the hearing examined the charges of defection and abuse of power, and those charges, shesaid, involved state secrets.

Wang, 52, fled to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu in February and divulged the murder of a British businessman, resulting in the removal of his boss, Bo Xilai, from the communist leadership, the conviction of Bo's wife for murder and friction amid Chinese leaders.

The hearing started at 8.30 a.m. and recessed in the afternoon, said the lawyer. "It was closed according to Chinese law because it involves state secrets," she said, declining to elaborate.

Putting Wang on trial is a next step for China's leadership in moving past the scandal and dealing with the stickiest issue: whether to expel Bo from the party and prosecute him. Proof that the scandal's fallout continues to dog Chinese leaders is that they have yet to announce a date for a party congress to install the new leadership, though it is expected in mid- to late October.

A career policeman of more than two decades, Wang made a name for himself as a gang-buster in a northeastern province, where he met Bo, then a fast-rising politician who, as the son of a revolutionary veteran, had a web of political contacts. The two rode to national fame together, launching a high-profile sweep against organized crime in Chongqing, an inland megacity where Bo had been named party chief.

At the height of his career, Wang arrested hundreds of gangsters and government officials, some of whom were sentenced and executed in a matter of months.

Most of the charges he faces carry up to 10-year prison terms though longer sentences may be given for extreme breaches.

In a report on his indictment two weeks ago, the official Xinhua News Agency said that Wang knew Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, was suspected in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood over a business dispute but that he "neglected his duty and bent the law for personal gain" to cover up for Gu.

At the trial last month after which Gu received a suspended death sentence, prosecutors said Gu conferred with Wang before murdering Heywood and reported back to him afterward, said a lawyer who attended the trial. The lawyer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Wang recorded the conversations, which were used as evidence against Gu.

His excesses, including alleged torture of detainees, would likely have not gotten him into trouble had he not embarrassed the ruling elite by going to the U.S. consulate with a fantastic tale of corruption and murder in high places.

It is still not clear why he made that trip, though he had recently been sidelined by Bo in a sign of strained relations between them: In January, Bo had him removing him as police chief and giving him a less powerful post as vice mayor in charge of sports.

In history "until relatively recently, he who lived by the sword often perished by the sword. Wang Lijun is facing an outcome along that line," said Steve Tsang, director of the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham in Britain. "He, being somebody who has a long record of not delivering justice while in a position requiring him to do so, to end up facing the same fate, I would call it 'poetic injustice'."


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