09/18/2012, 00.00
CHINA
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First in secret and then in public, Wang Lijun trial begins

by Wang Zhicheng
Yesterday there was a secret session. Today the public session opens, but journalists are barred. Wang is accused of corruption and use of the law for selfish ends, but above all defection of seeking refuge in the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu. His escape led to the fall of Bo Xilai, the death sentence of his wife Gu Kailai, and the revelation of corruption in the party.

Chengdu (AsiaNews) - The public trial opened today against Wang Lijun, the former police chief of Chongqing that has sparked the most serious scandal in the Chinese leadership since the Gang of Four. With his flight to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, last February, he caused the fall of Bo Xilai, promising leader of the Politburo, and the death sentenced of Bo's wife, Gu Kailai.

The trial was set to begin today, but without warning, actually opened yesterday in secret. Yesterday he faced two of the four charges against him, defection and abuse of power. Today, however, he will be judged for corruption and for having "bent the law for selfish ends."

But this session is not really "public" because journalists are barred from entry. It is likely that the trial will end today, as the leadership wants the case quickly concluded to prepare for the Party Congress in the coming weeks. The Congress will see the change of leadership in key positions in the Politburo, to which Bo Xilai aspired and has been denied because of the scandal triggered by Wang.

Wang Lijun was the right arm of Bo in Chongqing, executor of his populist politics and the enemy of corruption. Operation "strike black [ie, in the dark, without looking at anyone]," Wang arrested up to 1,500 people, including heads of local mafias and party members. In February, he took refuge in the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu, fearing for his life, after discovering that Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, had killed the British businessman Neil Heywood, a longtime friend of Bo. Wang was hunted down by Chinese police, brought to Beijing and placed under arrest. At a meeting of the party leaders he was accused of being a "traitor." In fact, many people think that if Wang had not revealed to the staff of the U.S. Consulate the case of Bo and Gu, perhaps the Party would not have acted with the same firmness that is using against the once powerful couple.

His revelations publically revealed the corruption within the Party and the tangled web of affairs, crime and impunity of senior members of the local power. His experience also highlights the divisions and enmities within the leadership, as he thought to save himself by seeking the protection of a foreign state.

Until now, the name of Bo Xilai has not been mentioned in the trial against Gu, against four police chiefs and against Wang.  Bo has been resigned as Chief of Chongqing and been charged with "offenses against the Party discipline." But according to observers, his expulsion from the National Assembly of the people and the Party, will soon take place. His fate depends on those in power reaching consensus on how to deal with him. In the Politburo the tug of war is between the group linked to President Hu Jintao, that of the "princelings", to which Bo belongs, and that of "Shanghai clique", still led by former President Jiang Zemin. Once they have reached agreement on what to do with Bo, the date of the Congress will be set.

 

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