China for the first time yesterday implicated the former senior politician, Bo Xilai, in a criminal act, although state media avoided naming him directly in its account of the trial of his one-time police chief.
The Bo scandal has rocked Beijing, exposing rifts within the ruling Communist Party – elements of which are strong supporters of Mr Bo's populist, left-leaning policies – at a time when China is preparing for a leadership change.
Wang Lijun, ex-police chief of southwestern Chongqing city, tried to tell "the Chongqing party committee's main responsible person at the time" – in other words, then-Chongqing Communist Party boss Mr Bo – that Mr Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, was suspected of murdering a British businessman. But Mr Wang was "angrily rebuked and had his ears boxed", according to Xinhua news agency's account of Mr Wang's trial in Chengdu city, near Chongqing. The apparent reference to Mr Bo increases the chances of him facing criminal charges, possibly for covering up a crime or corruption. So far, Mr Bo has only been accused of breaching internal party discipline. He has not responded publicly to the allegations against him.
Mr Wang, 52, lifted the lid on the murder and cover-up of British businessman Neil Heywood in February when he went to the US consulate in Chengdu and reportedly told envoys there about the murder that would later bring down Mr Bo.
A court has since given Gu a suspended death sentence for the killing in late 2011.