Bo Xilai scandal: Wang Lijun 'does not contest charges'

File photo of Wang Lijun, former Chongqing police chief, on 21 October, 2008 Wang Lijun triggered the biggest political scandal in China in years

The ex-police chief at the heart of China's biggest political scandal in years did not contest the charges against him, court officials have said.

The Chengdu trial of Wang Lijun for defection, abuse of power and bribe-taking began in secret on Monday and ended on Tuesday.

The verdict would be given at a later date, court officials said.

Mr Wang's flight to a US consulate in February sparked events leading to the downfall of top politician Bo Xilai.

Mr Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, was later convicted of killing the British businessman Neil Heywood and given a suspended death sentence, after a trial that lasted a day.

Mr Wang is charged with helping cover up her crime.

China said Tuesday's session was "public" but while state television may broadcast pictures later, reports the BBC's John Sudworth in Chengdu, access to the Intermediate People's Court was tightly controlled and foreign media were kept outside.

But after the case ended a court official read out a statement saying the defendant did not contest the charges - leaving little doubt that the verdict, when it comes, will be a guilty one, adds our correspondent.

Although there was only moderate police presence outside the court, the sensitivity of the case was demonstrated by the fact the first day's hearing was held in secret, because it involved issues of national security, said Mr Wang's lawyer, Wang Yuncai, who is not related to her client.

'Head nurse'

At the scene

The influence of the Communist party always looms large over the court system here, and the conviction of Wang Lijun is almost certainly a foregone conclusion.

State media reports have made it clear that he orchestrated the cover-up of the murder of Neil Heywood.

Some might wonder at the irony, though, if he is, as is widely expected, also convicted of attempting to defect.

If Mr Wang had not gone to the US consulate and poured his heart out then it's unlikely that Neil Heywood's death would ever have been investigated, Gu Kailai would still be a free woman, and her husband, Bo Xilai would very likely be about to win himself a seat on the standing committee of the Politburo, China's most powerful political body.

A brief report in state media said Mr Wang was standing trial for ''bribe-taking and bending the law for selfish ends".

''The Chengdu City Intermediate People's Court held a closed-door trial Monday on Wang's two other charges of defection and abuse of power,'' said the Xinhua news agency report.

Earlier Chinese state media reports said the evidence against Mr Wang was "concrete and abundant".

The indictment against him said he knew that Gu was a murder suspect, but "consciously neglected his duty and bent the law for personal gain", Xinhua reported.

According to the UK Foreign Office, Mr Wang made allegations about Mr Heywood's death while at the US consulate in Chengdu.

Shortly afterwards, Mr Bo was sacked. Gu was accused and convicted in August of the murder of Mr Heywood.

Chinese media have been quiet on the trial and searches for Mr Wang's name and related terms have mostly been blocked on China's Twitter-like weibo microblogs.

However, netizens have been using pseudonyms such as "head nurse" - a term that puns on ''deputy mayor'' in Chinese - to make comments. Mr Wang was the deputy mayor of Chongqing.

A microblog user in Guangzhou said: "Good luck, head nurse."

"There should be a public holiday today, and the head nurse's trial should be broadcast live on TV so people can have a chance to learn what is the rule of law," said a microblog user in southern Zhuhai city.

Key congress

The trial comes ahead of a key party leadership congress in China, expected in the coming weeks.

TIMELINE: BO XILAI SCANDAL

  • 6 Feb: Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun flees to the US consulate in Chengdu
  • 15 Mar: Bo Xilai is removed from his post in Chongqing
  • 20 Mar: Rumours suggest Mr Bo could be linked to the death of British businessman Neil Heywood
  • 10 Apr: Bo Xilai is suspended from party posts and his wife, Gu Kailai, is investigated over Mr Heywood's death
  • 26 July: Gu Kailai and Bo family employee Zhang Xiaojun are charged with killing Mr Heywood
  • 9 Aug: Gu Kailai goes on trial for murder
  • 20 Aug: Gu Kailai given suspended death sentence
  • 5 Sept: Wang Lijun charged with defection, abuse of power and bribe-taking
  • 17 Sept: Trial starts in secret in Chengdu
  • 18 Sept: Trial ends, verdict awaited

Mr Wang's flight to the US consulate proved an embarrassment for China and threw up issues involving diplomacy and state secrets, analysts say.

But most analysts expect him to be given a suspended death sentence, similar to the one handed to Gu.

At a separate trial on 10 August, four senior police officers from Chongqing admitted to charges of covering up evidence linking Gu to the murder. A court official said they had been given terms of between five and 11 years in prison, AFP reported.

Mr Bo, Mr Wang's former boss in Chongqing, had been tipped for promotion to the top leadership ranks at the party congress before his downfall.

He has not been seen in public since the scandal erupted and is said to be under investigation by the party's disciplinary officials. It is not clear if he will face any criminal charges himself.

Mr Wang, 52, began his career in law enforcement in the Inner Mongolia Region in 1984 and moved to the southwestern city of Chongqing in 2008.

He had a reputation for being tough on organised crime and was once the subject of a TV drama called Iron-Blooded Police Spirits.

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