Police chief admits he tried to defect

  • @cliffordcoonan

China's worst political crisis in more than 20 years took another twist yesterday when Wang Lijun, the former police chief, admitted in court that he tried to defect to the United States in February, accepted bribes and carried out illegal surveillance operations.

The revelations came during his two-day trial, which ended yesterday. According to an official account of the proceedings, Wang, a protégé of the now disgraced Communist leader Bo Xilai, tried to conceal the murder of the British businessman Neil Heywood by Mr Bo's wife, Gu Kailai. She was convicted of his homicide in August and given a suspended death sentence after a brief trial.

Charged with taking bribes and "bending the law for selfish ends" at a closed-door trial in Chengdu City, Wang faces sentences ranging from a lengthy jail term to the death penalty.

Beijing is keen to conclude Mr Wang's trial so it can proceed with dealing with Mr Bo, then move on with the once-in-a-decade leadership transition, which is due to begin in October. Wang's flight to the US consulate in Chengdu in February ultimately led to Mr Bo's downfall. Court spokesman Yang Yuguan yesterday said Mr Wang had given himself up voluntarily.

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.