Chinese Communist Party Secretary of Chongqing, Bo Xilai, has been thrust into a political storm as his Deputy Mayor, Wang Lijun, is on what Party officials are describing as “therapeutic” leave.
[Dragon TV, No TB]:
"This morning at around 10:50 (0250 GMT), the Chongqing information office announced on its microblog that vice mayor Wang Lijun, who has suffered overwork and immense metal stress for a long time, is seriously indisposed physically. He is currently undergoing a vacation-style treatment."
This leave has suspicious timing, seeing as it was announced amid rumors of infighting and unconfirmed reports that Wang fled to the US Consulate in Chengdu, a city several hours from Chongqing, in an attempt to seek asylum. Wang, who is also the police chief of Chongqing, is thought to have gone to the consulate on the evening of February 6th. The building was then surrounded by police for 24 hours until the early morning of February 8th, when it is thought the consulate turned him in to Chinese authorities.
Spokesperson for the US Embassy in Beijing, Richard Buangan, told Reuters news agency that he was “not in a position to comment regarding reported requests for asylum," but said that the extra security presence was not requested by the consulate in Chengdu. Chinese authorities were also quiet about the incident, with a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson claiming he had no information on the issue.
[Liu Weimin, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson]:
"I have no information to provide."
Wang’s disappearance has caused controversy for Bo Xilai—who is vying for a place within the new line up of Chinese leaders to be decided at the end of 2012. Bo is known for his promotion of Mao-era socialism and his battle against organized crime. Bo brought Wang Lijun into prominence as police chief and deputy mayor as part of the crackdown against criminal activity.
However the methods used in Bo’s fight against organized crime attracted criticism, especially his lack of due process and allegations of extracting confessions through torture.
Commentators believe that Wang’s sudden departure will have a negative effect on Bo’s standing within the Party. Bo is one of the so-called “princelings” or children of the founding elite of the Chinese Communist Party. Wang became an ally of Bo as he rose through the ranks of the police force in Liaoning Province, and Bo brought Wang into office with him after he was transferred to Chongqing in 2008.
Wang’s current whereabouts are unknown.