Top Cop 'Covered Up' Murder

Prosecutors assert that the former Chongqing police chief covered up a murder and spied on fellow citizens.
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This frame grab taken from China's CCTV shows former police chief Wang Lijun during his trial in Chengdu, Sept. 18, 2012.
This frame grab taken from China's CCTV shows former police chief Wang Lijun during his trial in Chengdu, Sept. 18, 2012.

Updated at 4:00 p.m. EST on 2012-09-18

Wang Lijun, the former Chongqing police chief linked to fallen political star Bo Xilai, "deliberately covered up" for Bo's wife in spite of growing evidence that she was a murder suspect, and regularly carried out unauthorized surveillance of Chinese citizens, China's state-run media reported on the second day of his trial.

Prosecutors told the trial on Tuesday that Wang "knew perfectly well that [Gu] Kailai was under serious suspicion of intentional homicide, but he deliberately covered up for her so that [she] would not be held legally responsible," the official Xinhua news agency reported.

It said Wang, who played the role of crime-busting right-hand man to Bo's populist image, had also used "technical reconnaissance measures against many people on multiple occasions, either without the approval of authorities or by forging approval documents."

The allegation echoes unconfirmed reports that Bo and Wang tapped the phones of top-ranking leaders in Beijing.

Prosecutors made arguments in an open session trial on Tuesday related to the charges of "bribe-taking" and "bending the law for selfish ends," Xinhua said.

Evidence was heard during a closed-door session on Monday linked to charges of "defection" and "abuse of power." "The circumstances are especially serious," it quoted prosecutors as saying.

"He should be held criminally responsible on charges of bending the law for selfish ends, defection, abuse of power and bribe-taking."

However, the agency said that Wang had apparently struck a deal with the ruling Communist Party's prosecution service.

"Prosecutors said that provided Wang made an important contribution to cracking the case, the penalty for the crime of bending the law for personal gains could be lighter," it said.

"After his defection to the U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu, Wang turned himself in and confessed to the crimes he had committed, which could be considered as voluntary surrender," it quoted prosecutors as telling the court.

Life imprisonment likely

During the trial, the prosecutors showed relevant evidence, which was cross-examined by Wang Lijun and his defense team, Xinhua said.

It said the trial was attended by members of Wang's family, journalists, deputies to China's parliament—the People's Congress—political advisors and "ordinary citizens."

The trial adjourned on Tuesday, pending a judgment "on a day to be decided," Xinhua said. A lawyer familiar with the judiciary in Chengdu said he fully expected Wang to be sentenced to life in jail.

"Wang Lijun's trial today in Chengdu was on four charges, but they won't execute him," the source said.

"More likely, he will get at least life imprisonment."

He said all of the 50-60 people who attended the trial had been selected far in advance.

"They were all court officials, and parliamentary deputies and advisers," he said. "All the reports just went with China Central Television's version today."

"Of course [Wang] didn't raise any objections."

A second Chengdu-based lawyer, Ma Xiaopeng, said Wang was unlikely to have been allowed to choose his own lawyer.

"This was probably decided for him," he said.

Security tight

Meanwhile, local residents said security was tight around the court buildings, with policemen standing every few paces in streets nearby.

"The Chengdu state security police managed to get us to leave the area, using hard and soft tactics," said Chengdu rights activist Huang Xiaomin.

"There were ten times the usual number of government officials around the place, as well as traffic cops and bystanders, as well as media workers," he said.

"There were probably around 700 or 800 people there altogether," Huang said, adding that police had deleted photos of the scene from his cell phone and checked his laptop.

"They took me home at about 10:00 a.m. and put a security guard outside my door," he said.

"They follow me whenever I go somewhere."

Sichuan-based Internet specialist Pu Fei, who works for the Tianwang rights website, said he had heard of many more activists who had been briefly detained outside the court buildings.

"My friends at the scene told me that any Internet activists were taken away very quickly, but that they didn't think they were held at all," Pu said.

Among them was Chongqing-based netizen Fang Hong, who was sent to labor camp during Wang's anti-crime campaigns in the city after he planned to hold up a placard outside the court.

Calls to Fang's cell phone went unanswered on Tuesday.

Lighter sentence?

Hong Kong-based legal specialist Wang Youjin said he thought Wang Lijun's sentence would be lighter still.

"I think at the most it'll be 15 years," he said.

"He won't be sentenced to death, or given a suspended death sentence."

The indictment document accuses Wang of serious dereliction of duty for not pursuing an investigation into the wife of his boss, whose removal from office was triggered by Wang's Feb. 6 visit to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu.

Wang is believed to have told U.S. officials that Bo's wife Gu Kailai had murdered a British businessman.

Gu was handed a suspended death sentence by a court in Anhui province last month for the "intentional homicide" of businessman Neil Heywood, who was found dead in a Chongqing hotel room last November.

Bo was widely regarded as a possible candidate for a post on China's all-powerful Politburo standing committee at a crucial leadership transition later this year, until the scandal surrounding Heywood's death emerged, apparently ending his political career.

Before his visit to the U.S. Consulate brought events in Chongqing into public awareness, Wang was seen and feted as a determined "supercop," even starring in a TV documentary.

Wang's high-profile anti-crime campaigns clocked up thousands of arrests, and sparked widespread accusations of torture sessions and other human rights violations.

Earlier this month China's leadership was rocked once again by rumors of a political scandal; this time, that the demotion of Ling Jihua, a top Party official and ally of outgoing President Hu Jintao, came after the alleged death of his son in a March Ferrari crash with two women.

Reported by He Ping for RFA's Mandarin service, and by Hai Nan for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.





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