The police official heading a probe into the murder of a People's Liberation Army guard outside a garrison in Chongqing was named public security chief of the southwestern municipality yesterday.
Wang Lijun's promotion to Public Security Bureau director was endorsed by the municipality's people's congress yesterday, according to a local official who declined to be named.
The appointment came exactly a week after Han Junliang, an 18-year-old soldier from Shandong, was gunned down and his sub-machine gun stolen outside a garrison in Gaoxin district.
Mr Wang is reportedly the highest-ranking police officer overseeing investigations into the mysterious killing, which mainland authorities have labelled 'a terrorist attack'. He was promoted from the title of standing deputy head of Chongqing police.
Dubbed the 'anti-triad hero' and praised for his crime-busting work as public security chief in Tieling and Jinzhou, in northeastern Liaoning province, Mr Wang was considered a close friend of Bo Xilai, Chongqing's Communist Party secretary, separate local sources said yesterday.
Mr Bo was governor of Liaoning from 2001 to 2004, when he became minister of commerce. He was named Chongqing party chief in 2007.
'Bringing Wang here from Liaoning, Mr Bo will rely on him very much to combat rampant triad activities in Chongqing after he has taken up the top post,' a local source said.
Another government source said Mr Bo had sidelined Wen Qiang, the former standing deputy chief of Chongqing Municipal Public Security Bureau, in June to make way for Mr Wang.
'As far as I know, Mr Bo has long been planning to put Mr Wang in as Chongqing public security chief,' he said. 'The shooting case, I think, merely speeded up the reshuffle.'
Meanwhile, with clues apparently suggesting the killer might be a serving or retired military officer, an investigation has been launched within the PLA's 37th Division, the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy quoted a Chongqing source as saying yesterday.
The rights watchdog also said some officials had been disappointed with Mr Wang's rapid promotion and, although he was approved yesterday in a 'rubber-stamp' election, about a third of the votes opposed his appointment.
The report also said Mr Wang had been implicated in the death of a suspect who apparently died during questioning while Mr Wang was deputy public security chief in Tieling in 1998.
Official reports have said Mr Wang was a role model among mainland police.
A citywide manhunt is still going on for the masked gunman who shot the PLA guard at close range and ran off with his gun. Police are conducting house-to-house searches and have set up checkpoints on major roads.
The Legal Evening News said police were offering a 300,000 yuan (HK$340,000) reward for information about the killing.