In the wake of the spectacular downfall of former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai and his once right-hand man Wang Lijun earlier this year, SCMP revisits the southwestern metropolis – the epicentre of the communist party’s worst scandal in more than two decades. By tracking down and interviewing various people directly involved in, and victimized by, Bo’s “singing red, striking black” campaign, SCMP correspondent Keith Zhai unlocks the secrets of a once menacing political figure and his empire.
Questions over fate of Bo Xilai after jailing of ex-police chief Wang Lijun
Experts disagree on whether disgraced former Chongqing party boss will face charges; family of Wang Lijun say he's been made a scapegoat
Shi Jiangtao in Beijing and Choi Chi-yuk
The 15-year jail sentence handed down to former Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun did little to shed light on the fate of his boss, disgraced Politburo member Bo Xilai .
Analysts said the lenient sentence for the former anti-triad hero, who was once Bo's right-hand man, was part of a political deal aimed at putting an end to the Bo scandal ahead of the party's leadership succession.
But they disagreed sharply on whether Bo would face criminal prosecution.
Chengdu Intermediate People's Court yesterday sentenced Wang to nine years for bribery, seven for bending the law, and two each for abuse of power and defection.
But the court reduced the combined term to a total of 15 years due to his help in exposing the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood and "serious crimes implicating others".
A source close to Wang's family told the South China Morning Post they believed Wang had been made a scapegoat for Bo.
The source commented: "Wang has apparently become a political victim because the government wants to protect the guy above him and avoid further humiliation."
Lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan , who expected a 20-year sentence, said: "The verdict was too lenient to be comprehended in accordance with the law.
"The only reason I can think of is political motivation, just like what we have seen in the case of [Bo's wife] Gu Kalai , who received a suspended death sentence for intentional homicide" for poisoning Heywood in a hotel last November.
Liu and other lawyers also said they were confused about the sentence for bribery and Wang's failed defection attempt at the US consulate in Chengdu.
Compared with former Shanghai party chief Chen Liangyu , who was jailed for 14 years for taking bribes of nearly 2.4 million yuan (HK$2.9 million) in 2008, Wang was given only nine years for accepting bribes of more than 3 million yuan.
He Weifang , a law professor at Peking University, also described the trials of Wang and Gu as political and said questions about Bo's role - a sensitive issue for Beijing - remained unanswered.
Wang's lawyer Wang Yuncai - not related to her client - confirmed to the Post that Bo was explicitly named during Wang's trial when the court heard how Bo slapped Wang. But the fact Bo's name was not mentioned at all by state media throughout the trials of Wang and Gu was seen by many, including Hong Kong analyst Johnny Lau Yui-siu, as a sure sign Bo will be treated leniently to avoid any repercussions on the imminent leadership transition.
But Professor Zhang Ming , of Beijing's Renmin University, said given the public doubt about Bo's innocence in the scandal, he was likely to be charged with covering up his wife's role in the murder.