Clue to lost hours of runaway vice-mayor
Some light was shed yesterday on the mystery of just what went on during the hours Chongqing deputy mayor Wang Lijun spent holed up in a US consulate.
A Chongqing government spokesman broke the silence to offer the municipality's version of what happened on February 6 at the consulate in Chengdu. He said Wang left the consulate only after 'earnest and patient persuasion' from three of Chongqing's top officials and an unspecified amount of central government intervention.
A report by China News Service said the unidentified spokesman confirmed that Chongqing Mayor Huang Qifan, Chen Cungen, chairman of the city's People's Congress, and Xu Jingye, the local party disciplinary chief, met Wang in the consulate that day.
'The leaders persuaded Wang Lijun earnestly and patiently, and Wang Lijun said he was willing to leave the consulate,' the spokesman was quoted as saying.
He added that relevant heads of central government departments also sent in representatives to persuade Wang to leave the consulate.
'That night, Wang Lijun walked out of the American consulate in Chengdu voluntarily,' said the spokesman.
Wang had been considered an ally of Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai before the news on February 2 that he had been stripped of his post as police chief. His expedition to the consulate has dominated mainland news in the past month, fuelling all sorts of speculation.
Until yesterday, the public had been told only that Wang was under investigation, following an official statement from Chongqing officials on February 8 that he was not feeling well and was away for 'holiday-style treatment'.
The spokesman yesterday rejected a claim that Chongqing officials had stormed into the US consulate with a motorcade of 70 police cars. He said a picture showing a Chinese armoured vehicle on site had been Photoshopped.
He also denied that Huang had tried to bring Wang back to Chongqing against Beijing's wishes and stressed that Chongqing had been 'proactive and co-operative' with the central government in handling Wang's case. 'After it happened, the municipality's Communist Party Standing Committee immediately held a meeting and said it would fully co-operate with the central government in its investigation,' the spokesman reportedly said.
Beijing-based political analyst Chen Zimin said the account did not answer some of the most pressing questions, such as: where is Wang now? Why was he in the consulate - was he handing over information about Bo or seeking political asylum?
'What [authorities] are trying to do now is to sever ties between Wang and Bo, and even between Wang and Chongqing,' Chen said. 'But this tie is actually impossible to sever.
'Even if Wang indeed suffers from mental problems, can a leader who allowed a mentally unstable staff member to lead an anti-triad campaign escape liability? You can't blame everything on Wang.'
At the NPC's annual session yesterday, Guangdong party secretary Wang Yang - seen as a rival to Bo - refused to comment on Wang.
US Ambassador to China Gary Locke, who was attending the meeting as a diplomatic observer, repeated Washington's line on Wang Lijun.
'He came in for a regularly scheduled meeting,' Locke said. 'He later left of his own accord.'