Eccentric police chief Wang at center of power struggle
By Chris Buckley and Benjamin Kang Lim ,Reuters
April 21, 2012, 12:54 am TWN
CHONGQING/BEIJING -- The raucous diners in a hilltop restaurant in southwest China ignored a waiter's request to quieten down after a complaint from a petite woman at a nearby table.
The woman made a phone call. Minutes later, a man stormed into the hotel restaurant, brandished his pistol and silenced the table of stunned drinkers who instantly recognized him.
He was Wang Lijun, police chief of Chongqing and an ally of the city's ambitious Communist Party boss, Bo Xilai. The woman was Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, now a suspect in the murder of a British businessman, a crime that has upset China's carefully managed leadership transition.
The incident unfolded in the same hotel in Chongqing where investigators believe the businessman, Neil Heywood, was poisoned in November.
Wang's actions fitted a pattern of wild and flamboyant behavior as recounted by those who know him and whose final, characteristically dramatic act blew the scandal into the open.
On Feb. 6, Wang fled to a U.S. consulate in an apparent asylum attempt after he confronted Bo, sources say, with evidence implicating Gu in the death of Heywood, once a friend of the Bo family.
Wang spent about 24 hours inside the consulate before being collected by Chinese central government authorities. He could now face treason charges.
The rupture in his relations with Bo hastened the end of the career of a police officer whose methods in Chongqing, China's biggest municipality, were decried by critics as brutal.
Wang was also eccentric: sources said he sometimes did his own post mortems, boasted of being an FBI agent under an exchange program and of being kidnapped by the Italian mafia.