China says the former police chief who sparked off the country's biggest political scandal in recent years has been charged with defection, power abuse and bribe taking.

The official Xinhua News Agency announced the charges against Wang Lijun, who was also a former vice mayor in the southwestern city of Chongqing, on Wednesday.

Wang set off the scandal, which eventually brought down Bo Xilai, Chongqing's powerful communist party boss, after fleeing to the US consulate in nearby Chengdu in February.

During his overnight stay at the consulate, Wang is reported to have expressed his concerns about the death of British businessman Neil Heywood in Chongqing last November.

The resulting dismissal of Bo and the conviction of his wife, Gu Kilai, for the murder of Heywood has rocked the political establishment of China.

In March, Bo was removed as party secretary of the city of Chongqing, with the party citing unspecified violations as the reason.

Gu's arrest and the removal of her husband prompted the biggest political turbulence in China since the bloody crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests in 1989.

The announcement of the charges against Wang indicate a trial will come soon, moving the scandal closer to a resolution before a key transition to a new generation of national leaders this autumn.

Source: Agencies