Corruption trial of Bo Xilai protégé begins a day early

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The trial of Wang Lijun, the one-time protégé of China's purged Communist leader Bo Xilai, began behind closed doors a day ahead of schedule yesterday.

Mr Wang, the former vice-mayor and police chief of Chongqing, is being tried for defection, abuse of power, violating the law for personal favour and accepting bribes.

"It was closed according to Chinese law because it involves state secrets," said his lawyer, Wang Yuncai. The public part of his trial is expected to continue today at the Chengdu Intermediate People's Court in Sichuan province.

Mr Wang's flight to the US consulate in Chengdu in February and his attempt to seek asylum triggered China's worst political crisis for decades. While at the consulate, Mr Wang revealed information about Mr Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, who was convicted in August of the homicide of British businessman Neil Heywood. She was given a suspended death sentence after a brief trial. Yesterday's hearing seemed to focus on events in the consulate and the potential cover-up.

Mr Wang became infamous in China after he implemented a crackdown on gangs in Chongqing at Mr Bo's behest. More than 1,500 people were arrested, including gangsters, prominent businessmen and 14 high-ranking officials.

The government is keen to get Mr Wang's trial over with so it can proceed with dealing with Mr Bo, who is expected to face censure by the Communist Party, then move on with the once-in-a-decade leadership transition, which is due to begin in mid- to late October.