BEIJING (AP) — A former police chief linked to a disgraced leader at the center of China's biggest political scandal in decades will stand trial Tuesday on charges that include defection and bribery, as the Communist Party moves to resolve the turbulent affair before a key national leadership transition expected in weeks.
The case of former Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun will be heard Tuesday in an open trial, an official at the Chengdu Intermediate People's Court said Friday in a phone interview. The official said he had no further details and would only give his surname, He.
Wang has been charged with defection, bribe-taking, "bending the law for selfish ends" and abuse of power, though details have not been provided. State media announcements about his indictment have not mentioned Bo Xilai, his one-time boss, who was among China's top leaders before falling from power this year as a result of the scandal that Wang set off.
Wang fled to the U.S. consulate in the nearby city of Chengdu in early February after being demoted by Bo, the city's powerful Communist Party boss.
During his overnight stay at the consulate, Wang expressed to the Americans his concerns about last year's death of British businessman Neil Heywood in Chongqing. Heywood was a close business associate of the Bo family.
That prompted the British Embassy to request a new investigation, which uncovered that Heywood had been murdered. The case resulted in Bo's dismissal in March and the conviction last month of Bo's wife Gu Kailai for poisoning Heywood, apparently over a feud about money.
Gu was given a suspended death sentence. Three leading Chongqing police officers and a Bo family aide were also sentenced as accomplices in the murder and subsequent cover-up.
Bo remains under investigation by the ruling party's disciplinary branch for unspecified grave violations of discipline.
Shenyang-based attorney Wang Yuncai, reportedly a close friend of Wang's, had previously said she has been approved by the court to serve as Wang Lijun's defense lawyer. Reached by phone Friday, Wang Yuncai would only say she was in a meeting before hanging up.
In announcing Wang's indictment last week, the official Xinhua News Agency said Wang knew that Gu was under serious suspicion of murdering Heywood, but "consciously neglected his duty and bent the law for personal gain" so Gu would not be held responsible.
It also said Wang "left his post without authorization and defected to the United States Consulate General in Chengdu." It is not known if he made a direct request for asylum, something U.S. diplomats say they would not have been able to grant.
Wang had been Bo's right-hand man in Chongqing, spearheading a controversial crackdown on organized crime that critics say featured torture and other violations of procedure, as well as illegal confiscation of assets and the targeting of political opponents.