China scandal: Police chief Wang Lijun 'sought UK talks'

Wang Lijun, pictured on 7 January 2012
Image caption Wang Lijun is currently being investigated

The police chief at the centre of China's biggest political scandal for years sought a meeting with UK officials hours before he fled to a nearby US mission, the BBC has learnt.

Wang Lijun did not show up as arranged at the UK consulate in Chongqing, UK government sources told the BBC.

Instead he allegedly tried to defect at the US mission in nearby Chengdu.

The events led to the removal from office of his boss, Bo Xilai, one of China's leading political figures.

The BBC's Damian Grammaticas in Beijing says the events triggered the biggest scandal to engulf China's ruling Communist Party in recent years.

In recent days it has been claimed that Wang Lijun had concerns that a British citizen, Neil Heywood, who died in Chongqing last year, had not died accidentally.

On Monday, the British embassy in Beijing confirmed that it had asked the Chinese police to look again into the death of Mr Heywood, a businessman with contacts to Mr Bo and his family.

Mr Wang, it is claimed, had been investigating the death because he had concerns it was not accidental and was being covered up.

He fled after raising his concerns with Mr Bo, who later demoted him.

Mr Wang spent 10 hours inside the US consulate, where he is thought to have sought asylum but was refused. He is now under investigation.

An audio recording, apparently of senior party officials, emerged last week that suggested Mr Wang feared for his own safety.

In the recording, the officials are told of Mr Bo's anger over a police investigation into his family. The 62-year-old's apparent attempts to block the investigation seem to have sparked a chain of events that led to his demise.

Fallen star

The flamboyant Mr Bo is the nearest thing China has to a Western-style politician, correspondents say.

He made his name in Chongqing with two high-profile campaigns. One cracked down on organised crime, the other was to promote China's communist past.

There have been rumours about his family for some time, many centred on his son, Bo Guagua, who studied at one of Britain's most expensive private schools, Harrow, before going on to Oxford University.

Speaking at a political meeting just before he was removed from office, Bo Xilai hit back at the rumours surrounding his family.

He claimed that his wife and son had no assets, and that his son's schooling had been paid for by a scholarship.

The affair has rocked China's political establishment and exposed infighting ahead of the once-in-a-decade leadership change due later this year.

Many had tipped Mr Bo for promotion to China's top leadership in the reshuffle.

Since his sacking he has been out of public view, and it is not clear if he too is being investigated.

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