Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
China has formally implicated disgraced politician Bo Xilai in the scandal over his wife Gu Kailai’s murder of a British businessman during the trial of a former police chief.A report from state news agency Xinhua published on Wednesday does not mention Bo by name. But it says that Wang Lijun attempted to tell “the Chongqing party committee’s main responsible person at the time” that Gu was suspected of killing Neil Heywood. Bo was then the south-western city’s party boss.
Wang, whom Bo had hired to spearhead an anti-gang crackdown, “was angrily scolded and hit” after raising the matter, according to the testimony of another police officer read at the hearings in Chengdu this week.
The corruption cases raised by the prosecution also involve businessmen known to be close to Bo.
The comments increase the prospect that the former political high-flyer may face criminal charges himself. Until now authorities have shied away from connecting Bo to the case, though accounts of his encounter with Wang had already surfaced. The authorities have not commented on Bo since April when it was announced that he was under an internal Communist party investigation for breaching discipline.
The matter is particularly sensitive as China’s power transition fast approaches. Bo was once tipped as a contender for top political office and won popular supports with campaigns such as the drive against organised crime. But he antagonized many within the party with his evident ambition and alarmed liberals with his willingness to trample over human rights.
But Kerry Brown, an expert on Chinese politics at the Sydney-based Lowy Institute for International Policy, said the party could still deal with Bo’s case internally, adding: “It seems to have been very rigorous in keeping Bo’s malfeasance apart from Gu’s.
“That kind of story [about the confrontation] was so well-known that it was hard not to try to address it.”
He added: “I can’t see any big gains from totally trashing Bo now. Not going for the jugular might be more sensible, particularly at the moment.”
Wang’s trial for defection, accepting bribes, abuse of power and bending the law to selfish ends – by covering up the murder – was heard at Chengdu intermediate people’s court held on Monday and Tuesday.
According to the Xinhua report, the 52 year old secretly recorded Gu’s confession to murdering Heywood the day after the killing last November, but did not initially act on it.
“After arriving in Chongqing, I would often go to the home of Bogu Kailai. I felt Bogu Kailai was very good to me,” Xinhua said, citing Wang’s testimony. “At the time, my selfish motives were guiding me. I didn’t want to face this case.”
According to Gu’s aide Zhang Xiaojun – also convicted of Heywood’s murder – Wang phoned hours after the body was cremated, to utter a coded eight-character message to her: “It turned into blue smoke, flying away to the west with the cranes.”
But as time went on, Wang felt Gu was turning on him, Xinhua added. As his colleagues became targets of “illegal investigations”, he began to feel in danger and decided to escape.
That triggered his dash to the US consulate in Chengdu, where he told diplomats of his suspicions – leading to the British demands for a reinvestigation of Heywood’s death. Within two months, Bo had been ousted and Gu was detained for murder. Last month she received a suspended death sentence.
Xinhua said the Wang’s trial also heard that entrepreneur Xu Ming offered homes worth over 2.85m yuan to a relative of the former police chief’s in return for the release of three associates who had been detained in Chongqing. Xu, whose association with Bo stretched over two decades, has not been seen since March and is assumed to be in custody.
The former intelligence agent Yu Junshi, another long term associate of Bo’s who is thought to have been detained since spring, was cited as renting villas for Wang in exchange for the release of another man.
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk
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