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.
Dumplings, workouts: Jailed ex-police chief Wang Lijun's 'comfortable' prison life
Wang Lijun is comfortable, says his family, with workouts to keep fit and a TV for entertainment
Wang Lijun, the former police chief of Chongqing is leading a comfortable life in a prison on the outskirts of Beijing, a source close to his family said.
"He stays in a good mental state and has put on some weight compared with when he stood trial in September," the source quoted a family member who had visited Wang as saying.
Wang, whose flight to the US consulate in Chengdu in February last year triggered the country's biggest political scandal in decades, was jailed for 15 years in September for bribery, bending the law, abuse of power and attempted defection.
The source said Wang's food and accommodation were better than expected. "Wang lives in a single-room which has everything one could expect to find, including a television to watch and newspapers and magazines to read," the source said.
However, he has no computer and no access to the internet.
He is being held in Qincheng Prison, which is administered by the Ministry of Public Security and was built to hold officials above vice-ministerial level.
Inmates are believed to include former Shanghai Communist Party secretary Chen Liangyu , former Guangdong people's congress chief Chen Shaoji and Wang Huayuan , who was formerly the top anti-corruption official in Guangdong and Zhejiang . The source added that Wang worked out regularly.
The right-hand man of former Chongqing Communist Party secretary Bo Xilai , Wang fell out with his boss for reporting early last year that Bo's wife, Gu Kailai , was a suspect in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.
Fearing persecution by Bo, Wang fled to Chengdu, the capital of neighbouring Sichuan province, and sought refuge in its US consulate. He left the consulate the next day and was escorted to Beijing by state security officials.
Since his jailing, Wang has been criticised for what some saw as his harsh treatment of his subordinates in the police force. Others have said he sacrificed the rule of law during a sweeping crackdown on organised crime in Chongqing that started in 2009.
But a number of ordinary Chongqing residents remember Bo's rule fondly, and have also praised Wang's contribution towards improving the city's public security.
The source said some supporters from Chongqing or Wang's hometown in Liaoning province had taken dishes of dumplings to the prison and dedicated them to Wang on the eve of Lunar New Year last month. "It was a heartfelt gesture even though he [Wang] failed to receive the gifts," the source said.