Inside China: Aide to consulate defector charged

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Wang Pengfei, the right-hand man of Wang Lijun, the former Chongqing police chief whose attempted defection to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu in February triggered China’s biggest political storm in several decades, was officially charged recently with dereliction of duty and corruption.

Wang Pengfei worked as senior aide to the organized-crime investigator and was chief of Chongqing’s Criminal Forensics and Police Technologies and the chief of police for the Yubei district. That’s the district where British businessman Neil Heywood was found dead in November. The wife of a former top Communist Party leader is charged with murder in his death.

Wang Lijun made a daring escape attempt to the consulate in February, and eventually was turned away and given over to the Ministry of State Security. He has not been seen since his 30-hour consulate visit ended.

The dereliction of duty charge against Wang Pengfei is unusual because he was in charge of police forensics and likely handled Heywood’s autopsy and efforts to trace the poison that killed him.

Widespread reports from China state that Gu Kailai, wife of Chongqing Party viceroy Bo Xilai, a powerful ruling Politburo member, and Mrs. Gu’s co-defendant Zhang Xiaojun, forcibly fed cyanide to Heywood, killing him instantly in a hotel room.

If those reports are accurate, Wang Pengfei, as the forensic chief, probably certified the initial cause of death as poisoning.

Now Mr. Wang has been charged with “dereliction of duty” as a result of the Gu case, a sign that the reported cause of Heywood’s death by cyanide poisoning may not hold water. The charge raises questions about whether Mr. Wang falsified the cause of death by cyanide poisoning, or whether other methods were used to kill Heywood, who reportedly was close to Mr. Bo’s family.

Mrs. Gu and Mr. Zhang were charged two weeks ago with homicide. But the official published charge did not specify how Heywood was killed or when.

A local court in the eastern province of Anhui will hold the trial, which observers say will last a few days.

A guilty verdict against the defendants is almost certain in Chinese courts, based on past similar political cases.

Final sentences are expected to be announced by the end of August, removing another factor of political uncertainty before the major political reshuffling of power set for the 18th Party Congress scheduled in Beijing, probably in October.

Russia seizes Two Chinese fishing vessels

Russian border authorities patrolling near Siberia seized two Chinese fishing vessels July 24 for illegal fishing in Russia’s exclusive economic zone.

The seizures followed the July 16 deadly encounter between a Chinese fishing boat and a Russian patrol ship. Russian sailors seized the Chinese vessel after it collided with the patrol boat and fled. One Chinese fisherman was killed in the incident, in which the Russian patrol boat fired its deck guns.

In the July 24 incident, Russian authorities detained 33 Chinese fishermen from the two boats in the latest dustup over maritime claims.

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