BEIJING -- Wang Lijun, the Chinese police chief who touched off a far-reaching political scandal in February when he sought refuge at a U.S. consulate, stood trial Tuesday on charges of bribe-taking and “bending the law for selfish ends.”
The trial at the Intermediate People's Court in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, followed a day of closed proceedings on Monday during which Wang was tried on charges of abuse of power and defection, state-run media announced. Monday’s trial was closed, authorities said, because those charges involved state secrets.
No verdicts were immediately forthcoming on any of the four charges, and no date was given for when any sentence might be announced.
Video of Tuesday’s proceedings, aired on state-run TV with a voice-over, showed a bespectacled, frowning Wang in the center of a wood-paneled courtroom wearing a white shirt and speaking multiple times before a panel of three judges. Wang’s attorney, Wang Yuncai, sat to her client’s right, while about 40 other people, including the defendant’s wife and brother, watched from the rear of the courtroom.
When Wang went to the consulate in Chengdu, he accused the wife of Politburo member and Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai of poisoning a British business associate. The allegations sounded outrageous, but Bo was soon ousted from his position as party secretary of Chongqing. His wife, Gu Kailai, was convicted last month of the murder.
It’s unclear exactly what sentence Wang might incur if he is convicted. A summary of the proceedings released by the state-run New China news agency noted that Wang had cooperated with authorities on all of the charges except for the bribe-taking, providing information against unspecified “others,” and that this might result in leniency.
The news agency said Wang had “produced important clues for exposing serious offences committed by others and played a key part in the investigation of these cases” and noted that prosecutors said in their indictment that “this can be considered as performing major meritorious services.”
On the bribery charge, prosecutors said Wang had improperly accepted 3.05 million renminbi, or about $484,127. Liu Xiaoyuan, a lawyer based in Beijing who previously represented the activist-artist Ai Weiwei, noted that while a conviction on a charge of accepting bribes worth over 100,000 renminbi could technically bring the death penalty, recent graft allegations involving Chinese officials have involved much larger sums; in some cases topping 100 million renminbi.
So compared to such cases, Liu said, Wang’s offense looks relatively minor and seems unlikely to bring a death sentence if he is convicted.
Wang’s lawyer told a reporter on the scene in Chengdu that she expected a verdict in about two weeks. "I am hoping for leniency,” she told Britain’s Daily Telegraph. “The trial was pretty standard. I presented evidence, of course. I did my best."
Observers were closely monitoring the proceedings against Wang for any clues about what next steps authorities might take against Bo, who hasn’t been seen in public since spring. However, details related to two of the charges that might have yielded more information about Bo’s fate -- defection and abuse of power -- were kept under wraps.
“Even if he’s convicted of all four charges, it still might not mean anything for Bo legally,” said Mo Shaoping, a lawyer who has defended dissidents and labor activists in sensitive cases. “Because Bo’s name has not been mentioned in any of the details of the crimes Wang is accused of.”
“In the abuse of power charge, we have to ask, how did he abuse his power? Did he receive orders to abuse his power? Who ordered him to?” said Mo. “In the defection charge, it’s a similar situation. We have to find out about the motivation and cause of his defection. Who was pushing him to defect?”
-- Julie Makinen
Tommy Yang and Nicole Liu in the Beijing bureau contributed to this report.
Photo: The former police chief Wang Lijun speaking to the court during his trial in Chengdu. Credit: CCTV / AFP / Getty Images