The relatively light sentence for the former police chief, whose visit to a US consulate in February triggered the downfall of one of China’s highest political leaders, was handed down on Monday.
The relatively mild sentence – Wang Lijun could have faced the death penalty – reflected his cooperation with prosecutors investigating his former high-flying boss, Bo Xilai, say judicial observers.
“Wang Lijun revealed some scandals that are helpful in solving the Bo Xilai case, so he got a lighter sentence than he might have done,” says Tong Zhiwei, a law professor at the East China University of Political Science and Law in Shanghai.
The authorities have laid no criminal charges yet against Mr. Bo, once a contender for a place on the ruling Communist Party’s top body but who was cast down by his wife’s murder of British businessman Neil Heywood. Bo has not been seen in public since March.
His wife, Gu Kailai, was given a suspended death sentence last month for murdering Mr. Heywood. Wang was jailed for initially helping to cover up that crime, along with other charges of bribery, abuse of power, and defection.
It is still uncertain whether Bo will be brought to trial, or subjected instead to secret party disciplinary action. He was fired from his political leadership posts in March and April.
“If he is not tried the public will not be satisfied,” predicts Professor Tong. “People will be disappointed in the Chinese legal system if the authorities try to protect him from justice.”