Wang Lijun, the Chinese police chief whose thwarted defection exposed the murder of a British businessman and a turf war between top Communist Party officials, was sentenced to 15 years in prison Monday.
China has nearly mopped up a murder scandal that has roiled the country for months, but the last step — dealing with a fallen political star who was once among the Communist Party's most popular figures — will be the most delicate of all.
Bo Xilai's former right-hand man and police chief, Wang Lijun, was sentenced Monday to 15 years in prison for making a thwarted defection bid, and for helping Bo's wife cover up the murder of a British businessman. Bo's wife and other figures in the scandal were sentenced previously, and Beijing is keen to settle the fate of Bo himself before a once-a-decade change in leadership expected next month.
Ever since Wang's thwarted defection bid at a U.S. consulate in February made the scandal public, the question of what to do about Bo, then a powerful party boss in Chongqing city, has bedeviled Chinese leaders. It strained relations among Communist Party power brokers just as they were cutting deals to transfer of power to younger leaders; deciding whether to prosecute him or merely purge him from the party became part of the bargaining.
Wang's trial and verdict bode ill for Bo. The official account of the trial implied that Bo ignored his wife's involvement in the murder after Wang told him about it. Though it referred to Bo by his position rather than his name, the account marked the first time in weeks of trials that Bo was mentioned in any way.
In sentencing Wang, the court emphasized his help in the murder investigation against Bo's wife, who was convicted last month, and in exposing the crimes of unspecified others.