Friday, February 10, 2012

Wang Lijun, Bo Xilai, and the US Consulate: What Happened

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."

Wang Lijun is now in the hands of Party Central.  It will be very interesting to see how (or if) Beijing will explain his role reversal to the public. As to Bo Xilai, his hope to ascend is probably finished, though, as I heard someone say, don’t rule him out yet!


MandMx said...

What is that saying about the cicada and oriole in Chinese? I would be curious to know. Great explanation of the story, now I feel like I'm up to speed even though it is "informed speculation!"

Xujun said...

M&Mx: Thanks for your comments. The Chinese words for the saying are: 螳螂捕蝉,黄雀在后。

Anonymous said...

Interesting stuff, but I don't see how Wang informing on Bo is particularly significant. Surely all these higher echelon officials have money stashed overseas? That wouldnt be any secret, just info that lies dormant until it needs to be used to finger someone who has fallen from grace. Do they really need Wang as a patsy? Are corruption investigations ever transparent where they would need to publish his evidence?

Sounds like people trying their hand at script writing.

Massaccesi Daniele said...

Graham Webster said...

Definitely an interesting account. The rhetoric of rumors and the untrustworthy media environment really do make any sense of certainty here hard to grasp. Of course, this is most likely a feature and not a bug from the perspective of media authorities.

Anonymous said...

Actually no corruption will be speculated if you didn't offend important people, cos every official in china is unclear

Anonymous said...

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KingTubby said...

There are now approx 675 google news entries entries on this peel the onion story, all of which amount to the same.

John Garnaut of the SMH has serious informants in the Chongqing manure pile, so his two reports are as good as any. CMP has an entry on the possible involvement of a business guy who did a runner overseas, but there is absolutely no corrobation to be found anywhere on the net.

Chinageeks, for all its reach and noise about this story, broke no new ground.

To my mind, this is plausible, given the crafted language used by US officials. Possibly some sort of tradeoff was on the table.

Whatever, the real story behind the fallout between Bo and Wang, other more important players saw this as an opportunity right for exploitation.

Bo and his ..... eating grin is now yesterdays man.

KingTubby said...

The crime crackdown was highly selective as Garnaut noted last year:

Real take no prisoners eat the wounded stuff.

Anonymous said...

What seems to be happening is one faction or group of factions moving against bo. Bo is not a loved man in beijing. They obviously enlisted wang and wang found out that bo had found out. I doubt that wang was feeding info to beijing independent of any factional maneuvering.

Anonymous said...

It was still not clear who is wrong/right doing in this event at US consulate. Is Wang a crook who trying to escape from his evil doing or is he trying to expose Bo's evil doings and getting into touble? very confusing.

MandMx said...

I also saw this as an explanation about what happened. I wonder what your thoughts are on this!? It has an interesting perspective on the story.

Xujun said...

Thanks to all for your interesting comments and links!

M&Mx:It's unclear whether the author is citing reliable sources or just speculating, but I suspect the latter. First, Wang Lijun should know that the possibility of getting asylum from the US is near zero, especially at a time when Xi Jiping is going to visit White House soon. No government would sacrifice its biggest interests for one deserter. Second, why should Wang give out high-level secrets without getting the promise of asylum first? Third, the so-called "open letter" completely contradicts the action of asylum seeking, for the former portrays the image of a patriot while the latter would be regarded as treason.

But of course, the whole drama was a big surprise, so logic doesn't necessary apply. Other possibilities can't be completely ruled out yet.

infoseek said...

He must have offered his most sensitive information to U.S. because asylum is at the very least an option anyone in his place would want.

I'm certain U.S. response has everything to do with Xi's visit.

blogreader said...

Regardless of whether Wang Lijun was seeking asylum or using the US consulate as a safe house whilst waiting for Beijing's Party Central to come and get him, why would he run all the way to Chengdu to do it? There are British, Canadian, Danish and Japanese consulates actually in Chongqing which would be just as suitable for either asylum seeking or as a safe house and much easier to get to.