How China's Bo affair rattled the White House

Chinese official who fled to US consulate after Briton's mystery death caused diplomatic frenzy

The long tendrils of the mystery surrounding the death a British businessman in China last autumn reached all the way to the White House.

Details emerged yesterday of the diplomatic frenzy that ensued when a former protégé of the disgraced Communist Party chief Bo Xilai sought protection from a US consulate in Chengdu at the beginning of February.

The appearance at the consulate's gates of Wang Lijun, a former police chief in Chongqing, China's biggest metropolis, bearing documents believed to have contained incriminating information about Mr Bo, caught US diplomats by surprise. During a frantic 36 hours, the New York Times reported, US officials in China, at the State Department in Washington and at the White House tried to decide what to do with him.

During all this time, the consulate was surrounded by throngs of security guards apparently deployed by Mr Bo to take Mr Wang into custody. Instead, the US decided eventually to hand him over to Chinese authorities in Beijing, turning down his request that he be granted asylum. The decision to deny him sanctuary in the US was being questioned by some on Capitol Hill last night. Mr Bo, who was the high-flying provincial Communist Party head and a candidate for a place on the Politburo in Beijing, has since been stripped of his posts and disgraced under suspicion of corruption. His wife, Gu Kailai, has been detained, along with a former family assistant, under suspicion of involvement in the murder of the British businessman, Neil Heywood.

Responding in part to pressure from the British Government, Beijing yesterday again undertook to "thoroughly investigate" an affair that has already become a serious international embarrassment as well as time bomb at the heart of a party that strives to project an image of purity and rectitude to its citizenry.

Mr Wang declined to hand over the documents about Mr Bo to the US officials but did embark on long, confusing rants about corruption and general malfeasance in the provincial party, leaving diplomats in a state of consternation. Since being handed over, Mr Wang has vanished and may face charges of divulging state secrets to a foreign power which is punishable by death.

If US officials have hitherto been coy about the incident, it is hardly surprising. Washington has enough trouble handling its relationship with China without becoming embroiled in the Bo-Heywood affair. Mr Wang presented himself at the consulate just one week before a long-scheduled and delicate visit to the US by the likely future leader of China, Xi Jinping.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
tvEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Executive Assistant/Events Coordinator - Old Street, London

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Executive Assistant/Event...

Female PE Teacher

£23760 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

Secondary supply teachers needed in Peterborough

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: The JobAre you a trai...

Year 3 Teacher Cornwall

£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 3 Primary Teacher...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering