Wang Lijun: From hero to prisoner

Wang Lijun Photo: AP

As police chief of one of the biggest Chinese metropolises, he was hailed as a hero for his campaigns against crimes, but today he was jailed as a prisoner for the crimes he committed. It’s actually not far from a hero to a prisoner, as what happened to Wang Lijun.

Wang Lijun, born on 26 December 1959 in Inner Mongolia, was the one-time vice-mayor and police chief in the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing. Before his promotion to the police chief position in the Chongqing municipal government, Wang served as head of Jinzhou police in Liaoning Province where he had worked under Bo Xilai, who was governor from 2001 to 2004.

Starting his police career in 1983 in Tiefa County, Liaoning Province, and becoming a traffic police officer there in 1984, Wang quickly advanced to senior ranks of the police force in this mining county in the northeast of China. From 1992 to 1995, he served as deputy head of police force in this county and was promoted as deputy head of Tieling Municipality, the superior city that administers Tiefa County, both in Liaoning Province. And finally in 2000, Wang worked his way up as police chief of Tieling city and became a famous police figure in the nation for his campaigns to crack down on corruption and criminal gangs.

Awarded the title of Chongqing People’s Guardian on 28 February 2010, Wang Lijun (second from left) takes a photo with the then Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai (left). Photo:

When Bo Xilai was promoted from mayor of Dalian, a coastal city, to governor of Liaoning Province, Wang Lijun became connected with Bo. In 2007, Bo was moved from Minister of the Chinese Commerce Ministry to Party Secretary of Chongqing where Wang Lijun was appointed as the police chief of Chongqing as the right-hand man to Bo, the Chinese Politburo member.

In the strike-hard campaigns against corruption and crimes, Wang led a central role as a top enforcer under the direct leadership of and instructions from Bo. Arrested in the campaigns since 2009 were around 6,000 people including wealthy businessmen, government advisers, crime bosses and senior police officers, which aroused the national media attention and won him the laureate of anti-crime hero, although there were strong disagreements and oppositions from legal experts and scholars who called his anti-crime campaigns as illegal by excessively using torture, intimidation and interrogation.

From left: Gu Kailai, Bo Xilai, Neil Heywood and Wang Lijun

Instead of actively investigating the murder case of Neil Heywood, a British businessman who had been long associated with Bo family and was killed on 14 November 2011 by Gu Kailai, the second wife of Bo, after he reportedly threatened life of Bo Guagua, son of Bo Xilai, in a dispute over money, Wang Lijun intentionally helped Gu cover up her crime.

However, after his fallout with Bo and Gu, Wang ordered subordinates to collect the evidence and confronted Bo with the allegation that Gu was suspected of killing Heywood in late January, but Bo angrily rebuked Wang and slapped him on his face.

Days later, Bo stripped Wang of his post as Chongqing police chief and several of Wang's subordinates were "illegally investigated". Fearing for his safety, Wang fled to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu where he hid for more than 24 hours on 6 February 2012 until the Chinese authorities led him to Beijing. The following month saw Bo was removed as Chongqing party chief and suspended from the politburo.

On August 20, Gu was sentenced to a suspended death sentence, which effectively means life in prison.

On September 24, Wang Lijun was jailed for 15 years on four charges of defection, abuse of power, taking bribes and bending the law for personal gain.


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