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Inside China: China tries 4 police chiefs

- - Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Four key aides to former Chongqing police Chief Wang Lijun, whose dramatic attempt to defect to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu triggered a political tsunami in Chinese politics, faced prosecution in a show trial on Friday.

The four defendants — Guo Weiguo, former deputy chief of Chongqing police; Li Yang, former chief of Chongqing police detective bureau; Wang Zhi, former district chief of police; and Wang Pengfei, former Yubei district chief of police and director of Chongqing Police Forensics — were among Chief Wang's most trusted right-hand men.

The four were charged with dereliction of duty and corruption related to the Nov. 15 death of British businessman Neil Heywood at the hands of Gu Kailai, wife of the powerful regional Communist Party overlord in Chongqing, Bo Xilai. Mr. Bo was ousted from the Party Central Committee as a result of the scandal.

After Heywood's body was discovered, Chief Wang immediately ordered the four police chiefs to conduct a thorough investigation after preliminary signs showed his boss's wife, Mrs. Gu, might be involved.

But according to the published official criminal charges, the four officials took part in concealing evidence that implicated Mrs. Gu. They also were charged with fabricating evidence in an effort to make it appear that Heywood died as a result of accidental alcohol poisoning.

The trial of the four police chiefs triggered intense international speculation, as the charges against the men raise more questions and doubts about the official narrative in the case.

If they were guilty as charged, were they following Chief Wang's instructions to cover up for Mrs. Gu? If so, why would Mr. Bo become furious with Chief Wang, who fled to the U.S. Consulate in fear of being killed by Mr. Bo?

If they were not following Chief Wang's order to cover up for Mrs. Gu, did they receive orders from Mr. Bo himself to cover up the crime? If so, will Mr. Bo face trial?

The inclusion of Wang Pengfei, the police forensics chief, is also curious to many analysts because he was the ultimate technical authority on forensic evidence, which is crucial in a case such as this.

Authorities said the crime involved the use of cyanide poison as the killing agent. Various Chinese-language reports have stated that Wang Pengfei was the one who actually blew the whistle on the cover-up scheme and secretly preserved forensic evidence that pointed to Mrs. Gu's murder scheme.

If true, observers say Wang Pengfei should be viewed as a hero, not a criminal.

Russia's premier urges vigilance against China

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev stated Aug. 9 during an official meeting that Russia will step up efforts to counter "excessive [population] expansion from neighboring states" in Russia's far eastern regions, according to state-run RIA Novosti.

"Neighboring states" is a euphemism for China since China is the only country in the area with a sizable illegal immigrant population in Russian territories.

The immigrants have caused increasingly tense confrontations between the two countries despite Moscow's and Beijing's common stance on key international security issues such as backing Syria and Iran.

"It's important to prevent all kinds of negative events, including the emergence of enclaves populated by foreign citizens," said Mr. Medvedev.

There are an estimated 2.1 million illegal immigrants in Russia, many of them Chinese who are located in the far eastern area.

One of the last measures Vladimir Putin implemented before he swapped positions with Mr. Medvedev and assumed the presidency was to sign a migration policy that aims to attract temporary workers but prevent them from integrating into Russian society. Mr. Medvedev vowed to continue that policy in his declaration.

Illegal Chinese workers in Siberia frequently clash with Russian locals, according to reports from the region. A Chinese worker recently killed a Russian co-worker in a lumber mill by hacking him to death with a machete. Scores of Chinese fishermen have been detained recently for illegally fishing in Russian waters.

Miles Yu's column appears Thursdays. He can be reached at mmilesyu@gmail.com.