Chongqing policeman Wang Lijun 'holiday' sparks rumours
A top Chinese policeman - in charge of a major crackdown on organised crime - has gone on leave, amid rumours that he is under investigation for corruption.
Wang Lijun is receiving what his employers describe as "holiday-style medical treatment".
He shot to national fame several years ago after spearheading a popular crackdown on crime in the city of Chongqing.
It would be a major embarrassment if he was found to have broken the law.
The drama began late last week when Chongqing city government announced that "comrade" Wang would no longer be head of the police department.
He kept his post as deputy mayor with new responsibilities, leaving some to speculate that he had not been demoted.
But in his new role, the local authority said Mr Wang would be in charge of areas that included landscape gardening and historical records, which naturally led to rumours that he had fallen from grace.
Then on Wednesday the city government's news department said on its micro-blog site that Mr Wang had gone on leave.
"It is understood that Vice-Mayor Wang Lijun, who has suffered overwork and immense mental stress for a long time, is seriously physically indisposed. After agreement, he is currently taking holiday-style medical treatment," read the message.
Some rumours suggest Mr Wang had sought asylum at the US consulate in Chengdu, a city near Chongqing.
The US state department confirmed on Wednesday that Mr Wang had sought and attended a meeting at the consulate.
But a spokeswoman refused to comment on rumours that he had sought asylum, adding that he had left the consulate "of his own volition".
Discussions on the internet suggest Mr Wang might be under investigation for corruption.
"Of course he needs to take a holiday. He is eating and taking too much. This man needs a rest," read one posting.
A scandal involving Mr Wang could be politically damaging for his boss in Chongqing, Bo Xilai, who hopes to become one of China's senior leaders in a reshuffle at the top later this year.
Mr Bo himself gained much praise for the crackdown on crime in the city he runs.