Mystery surrounds fate of crusading Chinese police chief amid rumours of political scandal

BEIJING — The former top cop of a major Chinese city has dropped from sight amid unconfirmed reports he is seeking U.S. asylum following a quarrel with one of China’s most powerful local politicians.

BEIJING — The former top cop of a major Chinese city has dropped from sight amid unconfirmed reports he is seeking U.S. asylum following a quarrel with one of China’s most powerful local politicians.

Wang Lijun, a crusading lawman who made his name busting crime gangs and inspired a drama on state TV, has taken leave to recover from anxiety and overwork, the city government of Chongqing said in a statement Wednesday.

Wang, who also is a vice mayor of Chongqing, was shifted out of his role as police chief last week, prompting speculation of a falling-out with the city’s powerful Communist Party secretary, Bo Xilai, who is widely believed to be seeking national office.

The police chief may have fallen out of favour because his 2008-2010 crackdown on criminal gangs strayed from standard procedures and clashed with the central government’s current campaign to strengthen the rule of law, Beijing-based political analyst Li Fan said.

Days of speculation about his situation spiked Wednesday with online reports that he sought asylum at the American consulate in the nearby southwestern city of Chengdu on Tuesday after quarelling with Bo.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland confirmed that Wang sought and had a meeting at the consulate and later left “of his own volition.” She declined to comment on whether he had sought refugee status or asylum.

She said to her knowledge, the consulate had not been in contact with Wang since the meeting.

Employees of businesses near the Chengdu consulate reported large numbers of police vehicles in the area on Tuesday night, but said the area was quiet on Wednesday.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told reporters he had no information on the matter.

A city government spokesman, who like many Chinese bureaucrats would give only his surname, Ye, said he could neither deny or confirm the reports of Wang’s asylum bid.

“We saw that on the Internet, too. I don’t have relevant information now,” Ye said.

In a sign of the sensitivity of the matter, search results for Wang and Bo were blocked on China’s hugely popular Sina Weibo microblogging service and the comments sections attached to online reports about Wang were disabled.

Bo, who sits on the Communist Party’s powerful 25-member Politburo, appointed Wang in 2008 to clean up the force and take on organized crime in a campaign that drew national attention, as well as criticism that it ignored proper legal procedures.

Wang, a 52-year-old martial arts expert, entered law enforcement in 1984 and served more than two decades in northeast Liaoning province, where Bo was once governor. He won a reputation for personal bravery in confronting gangs and was once the subject of a TV drama called “Iron-Blooded Police Spirits.”

His law enforcement success led eventually to high political office and a seat in the national parliament, while his association with Bo gave him countrywide name recognition.

A former commerce minister, Bo is considered a leading “princeling” in the party, a reference to the offspring of communist elders whose connections and degrees from top universities have won them entry into the country’s elite.

Bo garnered huge publicity for his anti-crime campaign and an accompanying drive to revive communist songs and poems from the 1950s and 1960s, spurring talk that he was seeking a promotion. Those campaigns have since fizzled, leading analysts to pull back on speculation that he might be elevated to higher office when the party begins a generational change in leadership later this year.

Chinese political analysts say Bo has been cutting ties with the advisers behind the “red songs” and anti-crime drives in hopes of reviving his political fortunes.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, confirmed eight additional virus-deaths Monday afternoon including one in central zone. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
New record: Red Deer at 236 active COVID cases

One more death in central zone reported

The City of Red Deer is still repaying two loans for the Sorensen Station parkade, which are contributing to a deficit in the parking revenue fund. (Advocate staff)
Dropping parking revenues in Red Deer are creating a deficit

Loan repayments for the cost of the parkade are straining reserves

Red Deer firefighters look for coloured tags on downtown fire hydrants to determine water pressure levels before connecting their hoses to fight blazes, such as this fire at a low-income housing complex last summer. (Advocate file photo.)
Tagged fire hydrants are some of the City of Red Deer’s new innovations

New ideas are being generated to improve services or save money: general-manager

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
‘Fake’ police officers demand money, Red Deer RCMP warn of scam

Red Deer RCMP are warning the public of a concerning incident where… Continue reading

The sit-down area of Red Deer's Tim Hortons at 3020 22nd St. was closed to the public on Monday because of an "evolving health situation." The drive-through was open and remained busy.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Red Deer Tim Hortons restaurant dining room closed due to “evolving health situation”

Drive-through at Tim Hortons in southeast Red Deer remained open

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

Vancouver Whitecaps forward Fredy Montero celebrates after scoring a goal against the Los Angeles Galaxy during the second half of an MLS soccer match in Portland, Ore., Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020. The Vancouver Whitecaps are hanging on to several of their young players and continuing contract talks with two veterans, including Montero. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Steve Dipaola
Whitecaps exercise options on seven players, ‘continuing discussions’ with Montero

Whitecaps exercise options on seven players, ‘continuing discussions’ with Montero

Toronto FC forward Pablo Piatti (7) cuts past Vancouver Whitecaps defender Ali Adnan (53) during first half MLS Canadian Championship soccer action in Toronto on Friday, August 21, 2020. Barring a new agreement, Toronto FC is parting ways with designated player Pablo Piatti. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Toronto FC looks for new designated player, opts not to pick up Piatti option

Toronto FC looks for new designated player, opts not to pick up Piatti option

Hamilton Forge FC players celebrate their win over CD Olimpia's during Scotiabank CONCACAF League 2019 action in Hamilton, Ont., Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. After a season that has taken it from Hamilton to Charlottetown, El Salvador and Panama, Forge FC hopes the Dominican Republic is the last stop on the way to the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power
Forge FC just one win away from booking ticket to CONCACAF Champions League

Forge FC just one win away from booking ticket to CONCACAF Champions League

A police officer patrols near the Olympic Symbol being transported on a barge in the Odaiba section Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, in Tokyo. The five Olympic rings are back in Tokyo Bay. They were removed for maintenance four months ago shortly after the Tokyo Olympics were postponed until next year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Olympic rings back in Tokyo Bay; a sign of hope in pandemic

Olympic rings back in Tokyo Bay; a sign of hope in pandemic

Ottawa Redblacks player Brad Sinopoli speaks to reporters as the team clears out of the locker room, in Ottawa on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. Sinopoli fully understands the challenge Kendall Hinton faced Sunday with the Denver Broncos. The Broncos activated Hinton, a receiver, from the practice roster to become the starting quarterback in Sunday's 31-3 loss to the New Orleans Saints. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Former quarterback Brad Sinopoli can appreciate challenges Hinton faced with Broncos

Former quarterback Brad Sinopoli can appreciate challenges Hinton faced with Broncos

Hamilton Forge FC players Giuliano Frano (8) and David Edgar (30) celebrate their team's win over CD Olimpia's during Scotiabank CONCACAF League 2019 action in Hamilton, Ontario on Thursday, August 22, 2019. Edgar, who announced today he is retiring at the end of the year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power
Veteran Canadian centre back David Edgar to retire at end of the year

Veteran Canadian centre back David Edgar to retire at end of the year

Sanctuary volunteer Angie Birch greets Wolfdog Rue as she goes through her daily chores at the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary, Cochrane Alberta on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley
‘My heartdog’: Misunderstood wolfdogs get permanent home at sanctuary near Calgary

‘My heartdog’: Misunderstood wolfdogs get permanent home at sanctuary near Calgary

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Quebec Premier Francois Legault leave a news conference in Ottawa on Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. Kenney says Alberta’s largest hospitals are at 91 per cent capacity due to COVID-19 cases and widespread cancellation of more non-urgent surgeries may be necessary. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Alberta premier says hospitals stressed by COVID-19, more surgeries may be cancelled

Alberta premier says hospitals stressed by COVID-19, more surgeries may be cancelled

Most Read