Police chief in Chongqing put under investigation, sources say

He Ting oversaw law enforcement in the metropolis in the aftermath of a scandal that brought down local party chief Bo Xilai and his right-hand man, Wang Lijun. But it remains unclear why authorities want to question him

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 June, 2017, 7:02am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 June, 2017, 7:04am

The top police officer in the large Chinese city of Chongqing has been put under investigation, sources with knowledge of the matter told the South China Morning Post, which could bring fresh uncertainty to the political power reshuffle later this year.

A source with the municipality who declined to be named said He Ting, the municipal police bureau chief and the executive deputy mayor, “was taken away by discipline inspection personnel for investigation on March 31”.

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Authorities have not announced He’s whereabouts. His name has been omitted from official statements in recent weeks, he is no longer on the list of the local Communist Party leadership, and his biography was taken off the leadership profile section of the local government website this week.

The downfall of He could affect the Communist Party’s power reshuffle late this year. But it remains unknown whether He’s situation will have any effect on the chances of Sun Zhengcai, the Chongqing party secretary, who is widely considered a front runner for a seat on the Politburo Standing Committee during the upcoming 19th national congress.

A source who knew He told the Post He “had boasted about his close ties to Sun” and described the two as “friends for decades”, though the claim could not be independently verified. Sun and He come from the same hometown in Rongcheng county in Shandong province.

The position of Chongqing police chief has long been fraught with risk, as well as offering significant power. When Bo Xilai, a princeling once viewed as a potential rival to Chinese President Xi Jinping, became its party boss at the end of 2007, Bo reshuffled the police force, moving Wen Qiang from executive deputy police bureau chief to municipal justice bureau chief.

Wen was arrested in 2009, sentenced to death in 2010. and executed that July, becoming the mainland’s first municipal-level police chief to be put to death.

For a replacement, Bo turned to Wang Lijun, who had served as a loyal enforcer of Bo’s wide-reaching crackdown against crime in Chongqing that put thousands of people behind bars, not all of them guilty.

Wang too was eventually sacked as police chief in February 2012 and he sought refuge in the United States consulate in Chengdu.

The upheaval came during a critical shift of power in the party that sidelined Bo and Wang, who were both later jailed.

He Ting took up Wang’s role and was seen as a competent choice, given his extensive experience as a criminal investigation who served as chief of the mainland China’s first anti-terrorism bureau with the Ministry of Public Security in 2002.

Why He is under investigation is not immediately known. One source in Chongqing said the 55-year-old police chief “might have been” too involved with former security tsar Zhou Yongkang, who was jailed for life for abuse of power and graft among other charges.

Chongqing still grappling with ‘pernicious legacy’ of Bo Xilai

It’s also unclear whether He’s downfall is related to Beijing’s dissatisfaction with efforts by Chongqing to rid itself of the “pernicious legacy” left by Bo and Wang. His last public appearance was March 24 when he attended a televised conference on food safety issues in Chongqing.