The former right-hand man and police chief of China's fallen political star Bo Xilai will stand trial in the southwestern province of Sichuan next week on a number of charges including "dereliction of duty" and "defection."
Wang Lijun, Chongqing's once-powerful police chief and vice mayor, was charged earlier this month with defection and abuse of official power, by state prosecutors in the provincial capital, Chengdu, official media reported.
"Wang Lijun's case will be heard on Sept. 18," a spokesman for the Chengdu Intermediate People's Court told Agence France-Presse. However, repeated calls by RFA to the court went unanswered during office hours on Friday.
Wang will stand trial for "bending the law for selfish ends, defection, abuse of power, and bribe-taking," according to a Xinhua news agency report earlier this month.
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.
The powerful Bo was sacked on March 15, and is currently under investigation for unspecified "disciplinary violations." No official announcements have yet been made about his fate.
The authorities appear keen to wrap up the scandal ahead of the 18th Party Congress. However, hopes for a smooth transition during the congress were called into question this week after vice president Xi Jinping, widely expected to take the Party's top post during the Congress, disappeared from public view.
Xi has not been seen or photographed for two weeks and has canceled meetings with four foreign dignitaries including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Beijing has still not issued a statement directly responding to the rumors over the 59-year-old's health, which have included a bad back, heart trouble, a stroke and a car-crash injury.
Joseph Cheng, politics professor at Hong Kong's City University, said Xi's "disappearance" probably had little to do with politics, however.
"None of the top Chinese leadership is in public view right now," Cheng said. "China's leadership has tried to change the succession process to make it a bit more transparent in the past five years, maybe longer."
"I don't think they would lightly cast aside all their hard work, and I'm sure they're going to be on track to fulfill their aim [of making Xi president]."
Meanwhile, rights activists and lawyers in Chongqing said Wang's prosecution had brought fresh hope to an estimated 10,000 people who were sent to labor camp during Bo and Wang's tenure in Chongqing, which many have likened to the political violence of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) era.
Beijing-based lawyer Li Zhuang, who was himself imprisoned after speaking out about forced confessions during Bo's "strike black" anti-mafia campaigns, said Wang could face the death penalty, or a combined jail term of at least 20 years.
"I think he'll be jailed for at least 20 years, but I haven't seen the detailed case materials, so I'm not sure," Li said, who has applied for a permit to attend the trial.
"Of course I would like to go, but they haven't told me the final decision yet."
A Chongqing petitioner surnamed Zhu, who served two years in labor camp during Bo's reign in the city, said he too wanted to be a spectator at Wang's trial.
"I saw it in the newspaper," Zhu said, who said the labor camp sentences handed to him and his wife were "definitely" the result of Wang's leadership as police chief. "Of course I want to go. We have so many feelings we can't speak about; we are in great internal conflict."
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 son in a March Ferrari crash with two women.
Reported by Wen Yuqing and Ho Shan for RFA's Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.