Chinese verdict on ex-cop set to tighten noose on Bo
BEIJING (Reuters) - The ex-police chief who triggered China's most spectacular political upheaval for decades is virtually sure to be convicted on four charges on Monday, turning attention to the fate of his disgraced former boss, Bo Xilai.
A court in southwest China will announce its verdict on the charges against Wang Lijun, the former police chief of Chongqing municipality in southwest China -- chiefly, that he tried to cover up the murder of a British businessman by Gu Kailai, the wife of Bo, one of China's most controversial politicians.
With Gu already jailed, and Wang set to join her, the ruling Communist Party must next decide what to do with Bo, whose contentious downfall has dogged a leadership handover due to take place at a party congress as early as next month.
Wang sealed his fate at a trial a week ago by admitting to the charges, according to an official account of the hearing published by Xinhua news agency. Only official media outlets were allowed inside the courtroom.
"As for the crimes that the prosecution has alleged, I understand them, I admit to them, and I am repentant for them," Wang told the court in Chengdu, a city about 300 km (190 miles) from Chongqing, according to that account.
As well as the charge of sabotaging an investigation into Gu's murder of British businessman Neil Heywood in November 2011, Wang also faced charges of defecting to a U.S. consulate, taking bribes and conducting illegal surveillance.
The main charges stemmed from a cascade of events triggered by Heywood's murder. Officials have said the murder itself arose from a business dispute in Chongqing, the riverside municipality that Bo and Wang made into their fiefdom.
After first helping Gu evade suspicion of poisoning Heywood, Wang then kept evidence of the murder, according to the official account of Wang's trial. In late January, Wang confronted Bo with the allegation that Gu was suspected of killing Heywood. But Wang was "angrily rebuked and had his ears boxed".
Days later, Bo stripped Wang of his post as Chongqing police chief, and Wang, fearing for his safety, fled to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu where he hid for more than 24 hours until Chinese officials coaxed him out.
In August, Gu was sentenced to a suspended death sentence, which effectively meant life in prison. The charges against Wang mean he could face execution, but legal experts say mentions of his cooperation with prosecutors suggest he will be jailed instead.
The Chinese government has not said what will happen to Bo, who in March was sacked as party boss and in April suspended from the ruling Communist Party's Politburo, a powerful decision-making council with two dozen active members.
So far, Bo has only been accused of breaching internal party discipline. But experts say the public citing of Bo's angry rebuke of Wang has raised the likelihood that he too will face criminal charges, probably after the party congress.
Before then, party leaders could first expel Bo from the party and hand him over for criminal investigation.
"The prosecutors said Wang exposed leaders to major crimes by others," said Li Zhuang, a Beijing lawyer who opposed Wang and Bo for mounting a sweeping crackdown on foes in the name of fighting organized crime. Bo was the likely target of Wang's allegations, said Li.
"That was a slap around the ears that changed history," Li said of Bo's alleged actions against Wang. "Otherwise, Bo might still be in power and hoping to rise higher."
(Editing by Mark Bendeich)
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