Wang Lijun and the Tieling corruption case

The unofficial visit to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu last week of Chongqing’s former top cop and anti-vice crusader Wang Lijun (王立军) is now news reported the world round. The story, which first boiled up on the internet — with Chinese social media users posting on February 6, for example, that police had encircled the U.S. consulate — has been confirmed by both the United States and China.

Questions still abound, however, about what exactly the Wang Lijun incident means. Does it mark a dramatic change in the political fortunes of the charismatic “princeling” Bo Xilai (薄熙来), who has been tipped as a favorite to enter the Chinese Communist Party’s powerful politburo standing committee in a crucial leadership transition later this year?

Some observers have suggested that Wang Lijun’s visit to Chengdu was not in fact an attempted defection, as has been reported, but rather a leap to remove himself from the clutches of Bo Xilai, who had (it is rumored) already arrested people close to Wang.

Speculation goes further in suggesting that Wang Lijun might have cut a deal with discipline inspectors in Beijing, offering information damaging to Bo Xilai in exchange for leniency in treating Wang’s own alleged involvement in the Tieling case, a corruption scandal in northeastern Liaoning province that is reportedly still under investigation. [For a good round-up of various views on the Wang Lijun case and its significance, readers may want to turn to this piece at China Digital Times.]

Interestingly, and perhaps significantly, all news coverage mentioning Wang Lijun inside China today concerns the Tieling corruption case, about which precious little is so far known.

Wang Lijun is mentioned only to provide context to the confirmation that Gu Fengjie (谷凤杰), his successor as police chief in Tieling, has indeed been detained for alleged corruption — something long rumored but not, apparently, confirmed.

Aside from raising questions again about Wang Lijun’s possible exposure to a corruption investigation stemming from his time as police chief in Tieling, the news about Gu Fengjie’s case suggest to us that Chinese reporters are sniffing around the Wang Lijun case.

According to the WiseNews database of Chinese newspapers, there are five reports today confirming that the public security chief of Liaoning’s Tieling City, Gu Fengjie (谷凤杰), has been detained pending investigation for corruption (双规) since May last year. In fact, the reports are all drawn from Shanghai’s Oriental Morning Post newspaper, which ran the news yesterday, as follows (excerpted from a much longer report):

A relevant person in charge at the political and propaganda office of the Tieling Municipal Public Security Bureau confirmed to the reporter on February 12 that Gu Fengjie was detained pending investigation in May last year, adding: “But as to specifically what day it was I cannot recall.” A relevant employee at the Tieling Municipal Information Office also confirmed this news to the reporter.

The English-language Shanghai Daily also ran a news brief yesterday on its mobile service based on the Oriental Morning Post report:

The former vice mayor and police chief of Tieling City in northeast Liaoning Province has been sacked and disciplinary authorities are probing his official corruption, the Oriental Morning Post reported today.

Tieling City spokesman said Gu Fengjie, 58, has been under investigation by Liaoning Provincial Commission for Discipline Inspection since May 2011 and his case has been handed over to the judicial department. But the spokesman gave no details of Gu’s criminal activities.

Gu was appointed as the director of Tieling City Public Security Bureau in 2003 and was promoted as the city’s vice mayor in 2004. He held both positions until May 2011.

It was widely gossiped that Gu was already serving a 12-year prison sentence for taking bribes and possessing a large amount of properties. But the spokesman said he heard no such information.

Coverage of Gu Fengjie like the above made a number of websites yesterday and today, but fewer sites used the full report from the Oriental Morning Post, which mentions twice (but does not directly implicate) Wang Lijun.

Here, for example, is a partial translation of coverage in today’s Shenzhen Commercial News:

According to a report in the Oriental Morning Post, since May last year the [unconfirmed] information that the former deputy mayor of Tieling City in Liaoning province, [concurrently the city's] chief of public security, Gu Fengjie, has been detained pending investigation for corruption by the Liaoning provincial committee [of the CCP] and the [Liaoning provincial] discipline inspection office, has flown about on the internet.

Recently, a post online suggest further that on January 31 this year Gu Fengjie was sentenced to 12 years in prison by the Yuhong District Court (于洪区法院) in the city of Shenyang on the charge of bribery and possession of huge unaccountable assets.

A relevant person in charge at the political and propaganda office of the Tieling Municipal Public Security Bureau confirmed to the reporter on February 12 that Gu Fengjie was detained pending investigation in May last year, adding: “But as to specifically what day it was I cannot recall.” A relevant employee at the Tieling Municipal Information Office also confirmed this news to the reporter.

However, personnel with the political and propaganda office of the Tieling Municipal Public Security Bureau and the information office said they had no further information concerning the specific reasons for Gu Fengjie’s detention pending investigation (双规), and they said they had no information about whether or not Gu Fengjie had already been sentenced. “We have had no information since the case went into judicial proceedings,” [they said].

In explaining the context of the Gu Fengjie case, the report later goes on to say:

In July 2003, Gu Fengjie was transferred to Tieling from the administrative commission of the economic develop zone in Fushun, and was appointed as chief of the public security bureau and Party secretary of the bureau’s CCP committee. His predecessor [in the post] was Wang Lijun (王立军).

Certainly, that’s not much to go on. But we’ll have to watch and see whether Chinese reporters are able to tug at the rough edges of the Wang Lijun case and the Tieling connection.

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