I just left China today. By now the whole world knows that Wang Lijun, Chongqing's deputy mayor (and police chief until February 2nd), is in trouble; so is Bo Xilai, Chongqing's Party boss who has charmed many Western journalists.
What on earth happened that led to Wang Lijun's "defection" into the US consulate in Chengdu? Below is what I heard while in China. Keep in mind part of this is informed speculation, so take it with a grain of salt.
First, Wang Lijun was not seeking asylum with the US as some have guessed. He was running away from Bo Xilai and seeking the protection of Beijing's Party Central, and he used the US consulate as a safe house, possibly also a message relay point. He waited an entire day until the people sent from Beijing arrived, at which point he walked out of the US consulate "of his own volition," as state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland put it.
Wang then walked into a melee between two forces waiting outside: Seventy police wagons sent by Bo Xilai, and agents of State Security sent from Beijing. The two parties scuffled and argued about who would take Wang Lijun into custody. In the end, Wang's plan worked: he was escorted to Beijing instead of Chongqing.
So why, at such a key point in Bo Xilai's political future, was he taking this unusual action against his right-hand man and police chief?
According to sources, Wang Lijun was involved in the "Tieling case" and is under investigation. To make a deal for himself, he informed the Party Central's Commission for Discipline Inspection that Bo Xilai and his family had transferred money and property overseas. Bo, of course, found out about Wang’s accusations and it led to the sudden arrests of Wang's eleven henchmen, including Wang's driver, as well as the removal of Wang from the post of Chongqing's police chief on February 2nd.
Thailand World News says that, a reporter of the Chinese Southern Weekend spoke to Wang Lijun by phone on February 4th . When asked whether his driver had been arrested, Wang replied, "If he's arrested, so be it." ("抓就抓唄.")
How Wang escaped Bo's control and drove three hours from Chongqing to Chengdu's US consulate on the 6th is still unclear. It is said that Wang used the excuse of visiting a university and received Bo's approval. Which university is that? It must be somewhere between Chongqing and Chengdu to provide Wang the possibility of escape.
Only 19 months ago, in July 2010, Chongqing's previous police chief, Wen Qiang, was executed by lethal injection. Wang Lijun, who succeeded Wen Qiang as Chongqing's police chief, played a key role in Wen Qiang's downfall, and has been hailed as the heroic gangbuster. Ironically and astonishingly, Wang turned from a police hero to a criminal more quickly than Wen Qiang did. It brings forth the vivid image from the Chinese adage: "The mantis stalks the cicada, while the oriole is after the mantis."