Image credit: An Pu Ruo.
Wang Lijun, Chongqing Vice-Mayor and Public Security Bureau chief under Bo Xilai, instigated this year’s most fascinating story, and destroyed his patron’s career when he apparently attempted to ‘defect’ to the US in February this year. But since then, Wang’s part in the story has largely been overlooked in favour of examining just how corrupt Bo Xilai actually was.
Now that it seems to be open season on Bo’s tenure in Chongqing – which Doug Young, former Reuters reporter and expert on the Chinese media, believes may be part of an attempt by the authorities to completely remove any remaining affection for Bo before he goes on trial – more information is emerging about Wang Lijun, and it’s juicy. Investigative magazine Southern Metropolis Weekly has published a 40-page in-depth story detailing all the ins-and-outs of Wang’s professional and private life. Thankfully, for those who don’t read Chinese or simply don’t have time to read a 40-page report, Amy Li at the South China Morning Post has been translating the report’s key findings.
We’ve discussed Wang’s fashionista tendencies before, and his dedicated PR reps dressed all in blue, nicknamed the ‘Smurfs’, who followed him wherever he goes; but did you know that Wang also hand-picked any photo of him that made it into the Chinese press? Wang also circulated within the Chongqing police department photo albums of himself and a book collecting all of his speeches and pronouncements which weighed over two kilos.
In order to further enhance his borderline mythological ‘super cop’ persona, Wang covertly supplied underground gun manufacturers equipment, funding and a secret cave in which to work. Then, in September 2008, Wang led thousands of police, armed with submachine guns and bazookas to the cave. Wang only held personally using a bazooka to destroy the gun making equipment when another official on the scene pointed out that this would be a bit much; they used dynamite instead.
Wang’s obsession with image extend beyond himself. Wang designed police uniforms, boots, and raincoats. He personally oversaw the redesign, for “medical” purposes, of the uniforms worn by female police officers under his command. As well as fashion, Wang claimed to be an artist connoisseur and architectural expert. He took out over 150 patents for his various designs.
His artistic soul didn’t stop Wang overseeing the brutal and sadistic torture of prisoners. One man arrested in Wang and Bo’s crackdown on the Chongqing mafia recalled being hung by his hands for eight days and beaten by police officers. Another prisoner said he was beaten, deprived of sleep, and forcibly placed in stress positions for extended periods of time. It got so bad that he once tried unsuccessfully to kill himself by biting off his own tongue.
Details have also emerged of Wang’s involvement in the death of British businessman (and possible spy) Neil Heywood. Far from blowing the whistle when he discovered Gu Kalai’s complicity in the murder, Wang appears to have helped her plan and carry out the poisoning of Heywood, even encouraging Gu when her resolve to kill the Brit wavered.
Only after Heywood’s murder, and Wang’s successful cover-up of it from within the Public Security Bureau, did the relationship between him and Gu turn sour. Both parties were paranoid that the other would betray them. Without her knowledge, Wang recorded Gu talking about her role in Heywood’s murder. On her part, Gu ordered her private secretary, Zhang Xiaojun to break into Wang’s home while the police chief was out of town and take a number of his possessions for “safekeeping”.
Fearing what Gu might do, Wang went to Bo Xilai, who appears to have been in the dark about the pair’s nefarious deeds up until that point. Wang’s attempt to get Bo on side seems to have been misguided however, though Bo was initially grateful to Wang for revealing his wife’s misdeeds, he later turned on the police chief, accusing him of attempting to frame Gu. Things deteriorated to the point that Bo slapped Wang in the face in front of a number of other officials.
When Wang was removed from his post as Chongqing police chief on February 2nd, he must have realised that Bo was moving against him. Within days he fled to the US Consulate in Chengdu, starting a chain of events that would rock the Chinese leadership and may yet cost Bo Xilai his life.