Gary Locke, the US ambassador to China, said the Wang Lijun incident was like "something out of a spy thriller." (Photo/CNS)
The United States ambassador to China, Gary Locke, has revealed details of the dramatic flight of Wang Lijun, the former police chief under fallen Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai. Wang sought asylum at the US consulate in Chengdu in February because he had knowledge about the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, the ambassador said.
On the morning of Feb. 6, Wang took two bodyguards and a driver with him in an off-road vehicle without a license plate, leaving Chongqing for nearby Chengdu, the capital of neighboring Sichuan province. On the way he called an acquaintance from the Sichuan government and said he had something he wanted to discuss. At lunch with the official, Wang said he needed to see senior officials from the US consulate but did not make an appointment in advance, according to Want Daily, our Chinese-language sister newspaper.
The Sichuan official called Peter Haymond, US consulate-general in Chengdu, and escorted Wang to the gate of the consulate, where he waited with Wang's bodyguards and driver. Wang did not leave the building for another 27 hours.
Locke said that he rushed to the embassy in Beijing upon receiving a cryptic email on his phone requesting his presence. He was stunned to learn that Wang told US officials he was seeking political asylum in the US because of his knowledge of the poisoning of Neil Heywood, according to Newsweek.
As news filtered back to Chongqing of Wang's apparent defection, the US consulate was surrounded by armed security forces. This telling of the story contrasts with the version given by Chongqing authorities, who claimed that the city sent only mayor Huang Qifan and a small number of officials to try to talk to Wang. The authorities also denied that the city sent over 70 police vehicles to the US consulate, as was also reported, said Want Daily.
Wang is believed to have provided sensitive information to the US consulate, which has now led to the arrest of Bo's wife Gu Kailai on suspicion of Heywood's murder. Although Wang refused to surrender to the Chongqing police and insisted that he only left the consulate for Beijing with people he trusted, he now faces treason charges and could face a life sentence. Bo has been removed from his post and is undergoing investigation for "serious discipline violations."
"It felt like something out of a spy thriller," Locke told Newsweek reporters.
Wang Lijun 王立軍
Bo Xilai 薄熙來
Gu Kailai 谷開來