BEIJING — The ex-police chief at the center of China's seamy political scandal asked U.S. diplomats for asylum after he covered up a murder for the wife of the Communist Party boss but then grew estranged and feared for his life, the Chinese government said Wednesday.
The account, released by the official Xinhua News Agency, is China's fullest explanation of the scandal that was triggered when Wang Lijun fled to a U.S. consulate and that has buffeted the Chinese leadership in the seven months since.
Among the revelations in the account, the government said for the first time that Wang applied for asylum in writing — which U.S. diplomats and officials have denied. It also is the first time the government verges on implicating Bo Xilai, a member of the senior leadership who was removed in disgrace in the fallout.
In the account, Wang, the police chief of the megacity of Chongqing, told the city's "top official in charge" on Jan. 28 that Bo's wife, Gu Kailai was a suspect in the murder of a British businessman. The next morning, Wang was rebuked in anger and the official boxed his ears, the account said, and days later fearing for his life he fled to the consulate in nearby Chengdu.
Though Bo is never named in the account, he was Chongqing's top leader. Chinese news websites outside of China, citing unnamed sources, previously reported a confrontation in which Wang slapped Bo.
The account is the latest sign that Chinese leaders are nearing a resolution on what to do about Bo — whether only to expel him from the party or prosecute him on criminal charges. Deciding his fate has consumed the leadership's attention at a time they are preparing to transfer power to a younger generation — a tricky process that involves back-room politicking.
A flamboyant, telegenic son of a revolutionary leader, Bo was a rare popular politician and a contender for the senior leadership. Wang's thwarted asylum bid and the ensuing scandal proved Bo's undoing.
The account, a sanitized version of Wang's two-day trial that ended Tuesday, describes Wang's renegade reign as Chongqing's top cop and the trading of favors that took place while Bo presided.
Within 12 hours of poisoning Briton Neil Heywood in a Chongqing hotel room over a business dispute late Nov. 13, Gu Kailai confessed to Wang, who recorded the conversation, the account said.
"He told me not to think about it, that from now on I shouldn't concern myself," the account quotes Gu as saying at her trial last month. "I said 'I'm a bit worried.' He said, 'It will be fine in a week or two.'"
His police officers then went about removing and destroying evidence and having Heywood declared dead by excessive drinking. After his body was cremated, the account said, Wang called Gu: "It's all gone up in smoke."