China: The Political Drama of Wang Lijun's “Stress Leave”

Over the past few days, Chinese netizens have been following the story of former Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun's secretive meeting at the U.S. Consulate closely. Many believe that Wang tried to seek asylum in the U.S. in order to protect himself from becoming the scapegoat of Chongqing Chinese Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai's power struggle in Beijing.

Wang Lijun has been portrayed as a role model of the Chinese police since 2000 after his successful crackdown on a triad network in Liaoning province in 1999. In June 2008, the anti-triad hero was appointed as the head of police bureau in Chongqing city. Working side-by-side with Bo Xilai, he arrested a large number of former government officials in Chongqing on charges of corruption, including former head of the Justice Bureau Wen Qiang and former deputy chief of the Police Bureau Pang Changjian. In May 2011, Wang was elected as deputy mayor of Chongqing.

A dramatic turn took place on February 2, 2012, when the Information Office of Chongqing municipality posted a message via Weibo stating that [zh]:


We are told that the City Committee recently has decided that Wang Lijun will no longer serve as head of the Police Bureau or Secretary of the Chongqing Party Committee. He will remain in charge of economic affairs as deputy mayor.

While Wang still attended a public function in February 6 2012, two days later on February 8, the information office announced [zh] in Sina Weibo again:


We are told that deputy mayor Wang Lijun suffers from hypertension due to work pressure. He is very ill and it was agreed that he is to receive “vacation style treatment”.

On the same day, the U.S. State Department confirmed that Wang had had a meeting at the consulate in Chengdu, from which he departed “of his own volition”.

Political analysts with mainstream media [zh] believe that the incident reflects the internal struggle within the Chinese Communist Party and that President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have joined hands to sideline Bo Xilai before they step down in the upcoming 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. The word in Chongqing, it seems, is that Wang's power play was successful and he is now in the custody of Party Central. Meanwhile on Twitter, netizens have their own speculation about what took place.

Bo Xilai left in the lurch: Corruption fighter Wang hops away, leaving Chongqing mayor and deputy Party Secretary Huang Qifan ("red songs") behind; Image by Rebel Pepper.

Tufuwugan, for one, believes [zh] that Wang Lijun has been made Bo Xilai's scapegoat:


I think someone wants to stop Bo from entering the Politburo standing committee and they do this by taking away his arms. Bo will sacrifice Wang Lijun to protect himself. During the cultural revolution, he even broke a few ribs of his dad's, so betraying Wang Lijun is nothing. Wang Lijun probably sensed that Bo would betray him, which is why he ran into the U.S. Consulate. This is such an exciting opera.

Alan Huang feels that Wang has been too naive in his political career:


Mongolian Wang Lijun learned martial arts since he was very young. He could have led the independence movement of Inner Mongolia and become a national hero. But, he betrayed his people and lives in shame. In a society where people's status is defined by that of their fathers, there is no way that a railway worker's son can fight against the head of the princelings, Bo Xilai. He has no idea who is in control, so naive.

Qiumazha on the other hand feels [zh] that Wang has made a good move:


Suddenly I feel that Wang Lijun is not stupid at all. He ran into the U.S. consulate in order to draw public attention, so that he wouldn't be vaporized. In addition, he claims that he has all the evidence [on Bo] hidden in a safe place. In the case that he's killed, the secrets will be revealed. That safe place might be the U.S. consulate. He has enough investigation experience that he should be more imaginative than any Hollywood director. Those laughing at Wang Lijun are too ignorant.

Since Wang Lijun has been very harsh in cracking down on political activists, dissidents in Twitter are happy to see him seeking help from the “enemy forces”.

Gongmingyaoyao mocks [zh] Wang:


Wang Lijun teaches us that all 50 cents know that the Americans are their daddy in critical moments like this….

Wuyuesanren echoes [zh] Gongmingyaoyao's comment on Sina Weibo:


I always said that our officials trust the U.S. government more than any other. People just don't believe that Sino-U.S. relations are that good. Now, Wang's move has proven it again, right? For us, those who are labelled as the US dollar gang [as opposed to the 50 cent party], we appreciate the U.S system and want to learn from it. But they [the officials] keep their family and wealth in the U.S. Please wake up, 50 cents!

Shang Guangluan reports [zh] on what he heard from the street:


My god… just now I had noodles in a small shop, a number of rural workers were talking about Wang Lijun. The incident has become people's entertainment. Their conclusion is: Wang Lijun will be shot to death for treason…

Political dissident Ye du points out [zh] that:


[Observation online] All people are talking about Wang Lijun online. The incident shows that in a society where everyone hurts everyone else, even though you are from the Establishment, there is no safety. Today you hurt someone, tomorrow you will be hurt either because of the clan you belong to or over someone's interests. That's why we say democracy is the way out of such mutually inflicted fear and harm.

Writer Ye Kuangzheng believes [zh] that Wang Lijun's move signifies a turn in China history:


It has been proven that Wang Lijun did enter the U.S consulate. This is the first time since 1949 that such a high-ranking government official has made such a shocking move. Lin Biao's escape, that failed. The fear that Wang is was confronting must have been enormous, or else he wouldn't have made such a move. Wang Lijun's actions and his future will have significant influence on China's future political ecology and the psychological state of government officials. This political earthquake has only just begun.


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