A Chinese court sentenced fallen Communist Party politician Bo Xilai’s former police chief for 15 years in prison Monday, a major step in wrapping up China’s worst political scandal in recent times.
Wang Lijun, the former vice mayor and police chief of southwest China's Chongqing municipality, was charged with several crimes including bending the law for selfish ends, abuse of power and bribe-taking. He was given a combined punishment for all the offenses, according to the verdict announced by the Chengdu City Intermediate People's Court in southwest China's Sichuan Province, Xinhua news agency has reported.
The court found that British national Neil Heywood was killed in his hotel room in Chongqing Nov. 15 last year. Bo Xilai's wife Gu Kailai was handed a suspended death sentence in August after she was found guilty of murdering Heywood.
Wang stated to the court that he would not appeal the sentence.
The verdict ended the career of one of China's most controversial police officers while the Communist Party of China has moved closer towards sealing the fate of Bo, as a leadership handover looms with a party congress scheduled next month.
Xinhua’s account of Wang’s trial said he concealed from the police the fact that Bo’s wife had recounted her poisoning of Heywood to him.
After Wang’s estrangement from Gu, he provided the authorities with a recording of Gu in which she admitted to poisoning Heywood. “On Feb. 7, 2012, Wang reported to relevant state organs that Gu Kailai was suspected of intentionally killing Heywood and offered relevant evidence and materials. Police re-investigated and cracked the case in accordance with law,” Xinhua said.
The sentence, lighter than the expected 20-year prison term, was attributed to the fact that Wang “exposed clues of major law-breaking and crimes by others” and “rendered a major contribution,” the court said.
Quoting political commentators, Reuters reported that Wang’s relatively mild sentence gave credence to the predictions that the party was likely to come down harsh on Bo and hand him over to the legal authorities.
However, the experts stay divided on whether Bo will be made to face a criminal trial or simply face a disciplinary punishment within the party.
China for the first time implicated Bo in a criminal act last week while avoiding naming him directly in an account of Wang’s trial.
Xinhua’s official account on the trial published Sept. 19 said Wang tried to tell "the Chongqing party committee's main responsible person at the time,” referring to Bo, that his wife was suspected of murdering Heywood. According to the account, Wang fled to the consulate after telling Bo on Jan. 28 that Gu was a murder suspect but was "angrily rebuked and had his ears boxed.”
Bo had not been mentioned in his wife's trial, and until last week had only been accused of breaching the internal party discipline.