Cookie consent

We use cookies to improve your experience on this website. By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies. Tell me more | Cookie preferences

Wang Lijun: Chinese cop at the heart of Bo Xilai scandal

A file image of Wang Lijun at the National People's Congress in Beijing.

Story highlights

  • Police chief Wang Lijun sought refuge at U.S. consulate in February
  • Move triggered China's biggest political scandal in decades
  • Worked with disgraced politician Bo Xilai in Chinese city of Chongqing
  • He has been charged with abuse of power and defection

The trigger of China's biggest political scandal in a generation, Wang Lijun was once a feared police chief whose crime fighting exploits inspired a TV series.

He is now serving a 15-year prison sentence after being found guilty in September 2012 of abuse of power, defection and bribe taking.

Wang's fall from grace began in early February of that year when he arrived at the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu in southwestern China in an apparent asylum attempt.

During a frenzied 24 hours, he reportedly revealed to U.S. officials a jaw-dropping tale of corruption and murder in the nearby municipality of Chongqing involving his boss and the city's mayor, Bo Xilai.

Bo, a charismatic and popular leader, was a contender for a top position in the Communist Party.

    Just Watched

    China's Jackie O Stands By Her Man

China's Jackie O Stands By Her Man 02:29
PLAY VIDEO

    Just Watched

    Will scandal bring change to China?

Will scandal bring change to China? 01:36
PLAY VIDEO

    Just Watched

    What does Bo scandal mean for China?

What does Bo scandal mean for China? 04:37
PLAY VIDEO

Wang was later collected by central government authorities, and city officials said he had gone on medical leave following "immense mental stress."

    The dramatic events unleashed by Wang threatened to derail the once-in-a-decade leadership transition at the end of 18th Communist Party Congress.

    However, before the November 2012 Congress, officials charged Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, and a family aide with "intentional homicide." After a two-day trial in August of the same year, she was found guilty of murdering British businessman Neil Heywood, once a friend of the Bo family. Gu was given a suspended death sentence, the aide was sentenced to nine years in jail.

    The following month Bo was expelled from the Communist Party and relieved of his duty. In July 2013, state media said he had been indicted for bribery, corruption and abuse of power.

    Timeline: Bo Xilai's fall from grace

    Wang's rise to prominence

    Wang was born in a remote corner of Inner Mongolia and spent two years as a "rusticated youth" during the Cultural Revolution in the 1970s.

    He first crossed paths with Bo in the northeastern province of Liaoning where he had worked his way up the region's public security bureau and Bo was governor.

    After Bo was promoted to the top job in Chongqing in 2007, Wang followed him and was assigned to lead his crime-fighting program.

    Under Wang, the "da hei" (literally translated as "smash black") campaign reportedly caught nearly 3,000 criminal groups and detained thousands of suspects. It also led to the execution of notorious figures in the city's underworld.

    The crackdown, along with economic reforms in the city of more than 30 million, helped burnish the political credentials of Bo, who aspired for a spot in the Party's Standing Committee of the Politburo, a nine-member body that effectively rules China.

    Allegations of torture

    Wang's heavy-handed, crime-busting methods were decried as brutal by critics.

    At the height of the campaign, Beijing-based lawyer Li Zhuang defended an alleged gang member and discovered police torture during interrogation.

    "For eight days and eight nights, my client was repeatedly hung from the ceiling," Li recalled in an interview with CNN.

    "He eventually soiled himself. His interrogators ordered him to remove the feces on the floor with his bare hands and use his shorts to wipe it clean. Then they hung him up naked."

    As he tried to expose the interrogators' crimes, Li said, he was detained, tortured and promptly sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison under the direct order of Wang for "fabricating evidence and inciting witnesses."

    Wang was also known for his unconventional working style and according to the Chongqing Commercial News, once worked as a taxi driver to gauge public opinion on local security and police issues.

    The most hated figure?

    Wang's two-day trial took place in Chengdu in September 2012.

    He faced four charges -- bending the law for selfish ends, defection, abuse of power and bribe taking.

    Some observers said his15-year jail term appeared lenient given that bribe-taking can carry the death penalty in China, depending on the amount involved and the gravity of the case.

    Prosecutors said that Wang knew that Gu was involved in the murder of Heywood but covered up for her.

    They added that Wang used illegal surveillance measures, forged documents and accepted massive bribes to secure benefits for other individuals.

    Political observers have said that Wang, not Bo, "is probably the most hated" figure in the eyes of the Beijing leadership for attempting to defect.

      Bo Xilai scandal

    • chinese.politician.sentenced_00023923.jpg

      Political science professor Yuhua Wang says he's surprised by the severity of the life sentence given to Chinese politician Bo Xilai.
    • This screen grab taken from state television CCTV footage broadcast on August 24, 2013 shows ousted Chinese political star Bo Xilai (C) speaking in the courtroom as he stands trial at the Intermediate People's Court in Jinan, China.

      In a letter to his family, the disgraced Communist Party leader reiterated his innocence but said he expected a lengthy prison sentence.
    • Was the trial of Bo Xilai (right) any more transparent than that of Jiang Qing and the "Gang of Four"?

      CNN Beijing bureau chief Jaime Florcruz compares his experience covering Bo's trial with a similarly explosive story in the early 1980s -- the "Gang of Four" trial.
    • This picture taken on September 29, 2008 shows the then Chongqing mayor Bo Xilan attending the "Ode to Motherland" singsong gathering in Chongqing. China's once high-flying communist politician Bo Xilai has been indicted for bribery and abuse of power, state media said on July 25, 2013 following a scandal that exposed deep divisions at the highest levels of government. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTOSTR/AFP/Getty Images

      While Chinese state media hailed the Bo Xilai trial as a show of "historic transparency," analysts saw its theatrics as part of a high-profile show trial.
    • This frame grab taken from Chinese television CCTV shows on September 18, 2012 shows former police chief Wang Lijun (R) facing the court during his trial in Chengdu, in southwest China's Sichuan province. The former police chief who set off China's biggest political scandal in years "did not contest" charges including defection and bribery at his trial, which ended on September 19, a court in Chengdu said. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO / CCTV

      The trial of Bo Xilai concluded with claims from Bo that his former police chief had a crush on his wife, Gu Kailai, who is serving time for murder.
    • The wife of a high-profile Chinese politician found guilty of murder has been described as funny, personable, attractive and charismatic.
    • Wang Lijun pictured last year at the National People's Congress in Beijing.

      The trigger of China's biggest political scandal in a generation, Wang Lijun was once a feared police chief whose crime fighting exploits inspired a TV series.
    • pkg grant inside china heywood hotel mystery_00002515

      A run-down hotel on the outskirts of Chongqing is the unlikely setting for a murder mystery. CNN's Stan Grant looks inside.