Wang Lijun sentenced to 15 years in prison

Sept. 24, 2012 at 12:37 AM
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CHENGDU, China, Sept. 24 (UPI) -- A former Chinese police chief, who allegedly sought U.S. asylum and set off events leading to the ouster of party head Bo Xilai, received a 15-year prison term.

A court in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province in southwestern China, sentenced Wang Lijun, former mayor of Chongqing city and its police chief, to prison Monday for bending the law for selfish ends, defection, abuse of power and bribe-taking, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The report said Wang was charged with "several crimes and received a combined punishment for all offenses." He was also deprived of political rights for one year on the defection count.

Wang reportedly sought to defect to the United States and his visit to the U.S. Consulate in February triggered a huge scandal that eventually brought about the downfall of Bo Xilai, the powerful Communist Party head in Chongqing who until then had been a rising star as a member of the powerful Politburo. The two had been close associates prior to the events but fell out, which led to the police chief's visit to the U.S. Consulate.

Wang's trial began this month and Xinhua had reported that he didn't contest the charges.

The fate of Bo remains undecided and he stays away from public view. His wife, Gu Kailai, herself a prominent lawyer, was recently convicted of murder in the poisoning death of British businessman Neil Heywood in a hotel room in Chongqing last November. She received a suspended death sentence, which is equal to a life sentence.

The scandal also led to jail terms of five to 11 years for four senior Chongqing police officials who covered up evidence relating to Heywood's killing.

CNN reported the 52-year-old Wang could have received the death penalty for bribe-taking.

Wang had been accused of taking bribes and property worth about $480,000 for personal favors.

CNN said Wang, in his final statement to the court, reportedly apologized, saying he hoped his trial would send out a warning to society and that people would draw lessons from his case.

The report said Wang's lawyers had sought leniency from the court, saying he had left the U.S. Consulate on his own. Prosecutors had also said he had provided evidence that helped authorities secure Gu's conviction.

The events are coming at a time when China's Communist Party is preparing for the country's once-a-decade leadership change.

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