The trial of a former police chief at the centre of a divisive political scandal has come to an end, bringing China’s leaders closer to resolving a case that complicated their transfer of power to new leaders.
Wang Lijun did not contest charges against him, including defection and bribery, at his hearing on Tuesday, the Intermediate Court in the central city of Chengdu said in a statement.
The court did not issue a verdict after the two half-day sessions, but said Wang “did not raise an objection to the basic facts and charges of bending the law for selfish ends, defection, abuse of power, and bribery”.
Wang, the former right-hand man of disgraced politician Bo Xilai, fled to the US consulate in Chengdu in February, setting in motion a crisis that exposed deep divisions within the upper echelons of Chinese politics.
The scandal led to the sacking of Bo and the conviction of his wife Gu Kailai for the murder of a British businessman.
The charges against Wang carry sentences ranging from a lengthy jail term to life in prison and the death penalty.
Defence lawyer Wang Yuncai argued that her client should be shown leniency because he had “made an important contribution to the resolution” of the Gu case.
“Wang Lijun had a reason to choose to defect and he stopped committing the crime part way through,” she added, according to the statement.
“He voluntarily left the US consulate after the defection and faithfully stated the major facts about the defection, which should be regarded as a surrender.”
The statement, read out by a court spokesman, added: “The court will carefully and comprehensively review the evidence materials of the case and take into full consideration opinions of both the prosecutors and the defendant side.”
Rifts within the party
The proceedings unexpectedly opened a day early on Monday with an unannounced closed-door hearing that Wang’s lawyer said involved state secrets and explored charges of defecting and abuse of power allegations related to his surprise visit to the US consulate in February.
Wang, a former police chief of southwestern Chongqing municipality, divulged that a British businessman found dead in November had been murdered. Within two months, Bo was sacked as party boss and from the ruling Communist Party’s Politburo and Gu was accused of poisoning UK businessman Neil Heywood.
Gu has since been given a suspended death sentence for the killing in late 2011.
The trial was closely watched for any evidence that Bo had ordered Wang to cover up his wife’s involvement in the murder – a sign that Bo himself could be next to face trial. So far, Bo has only been accused of breaching internal party discipline.
The Bo scandal has rocked Beijing, exposing rifts within the party – elements of which are strong supporters of Bo’s
populist, left-leaning policies – at a time when China is preparing for a once-in-a-decade leadership change.
Bo had been considered a strong candidate for the next top leadership team, which is expected to be unveiled at the party’s 18th congress next month.
Vice-President Xi Jinping is seen as all but certain to take over as party chief and inherit the challenge of trying to heal internal wounds.
Xi would then succeed Hu Jintao as president in March.
There is speculation the Bo affair could also be delaying the announcement of dates of the congress which remain a mystery despite widespread expectations that it will convene in mid-October.
Wang, 52, has been a close confidant of Bo and, according to the official case, and he originally agreed to cover up Gu’s involvement before reversing course.
A policeman for more than two decades, Wang made a name for himself as a gang-buster in a northeastern province.