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China: The Political Drama of Wang Lijun's “Stress Leave”

Over the past few days, Chinese netizens have been following the story of former Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun's secretive meeting at the U.S. Consulate closely. Many believe that Wang tried to seek asylum in the U.S. in order to protect himself from becoming the scapegoat of Chongqing Chinese Communist Party Secretary Bo Xilai's power struggle in Beijing.

Wang Lijun has been portrayed as a role model of the Chinese police since 2000 after his successful crackdown on a triad network in Liaoning province in 1999. In June 2008, the anti-triad hero was appointed as the head of police bureau in Chongqing city. Working side-by-side with Bo Xilai, he arrested a large number of former government officials in Chongqing on charges of corruption, including former head of the Justice Bureau Wen Qiang and former deputy chief of the Police Bureau Pang Changjian. In May 2011, Wang was elected as deputy mayor of Chongqing.

A dramatic turn took place on February 2, 2012, when the Information Office of Chongqing municipality posted a message via Weibo stating that [zh]:

据悉,近日市委决定,王立军同志不再兼任市公安局局长、党委书记,以副市长身份分管联系经济领域工作。

We are told that the City Committee recently has decided that Wang Lijun will no longer serve as head of the Police Bureau or Secretary of the Chongqing Party Committee. He will remain in charge of economic affairs as deputy mayor.

While Wang still attended a public function in February 6 2012, two days later on February 8, the information office announced [zh] in Sina Weibo again:

据悉,王立军副市长因长期超负荷工作,精神高度紧张,身体严重不适,经同意,现正在接受休假式的治疗。

We are told that deputy mayor Wang Lijun suffers from hypertension due to work pressure. He is very ill and it was agreed that he is to receive “vacation style treatment”.

On the same day, the U.S. State Department confirmed that Wang had had a meeting at the consulate in Chengdu, from which he departed “of his own volition”.

Political analysts with mainstream media [zh] believe that the incident reflects the internal struggle within the Chinese Communist Party and that President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have joined hands to sideline Bo Xilai before they step down in the upcoming 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. The word in Chongqing, it seems, is that Wang's power play was successful and he is now in the custody of Party Central. Meanwhile on Twitter, netizens have their own speculation about what took place.

Bo Xilai left in the lurch: Corruption fighter Wang hops away, leaving Chongqing mayor and deputy Party Secretary Huang Qifan ("red songs") behind; Image by Rebel Pepper.

Tufuwugan, for one, believes [zh] that Wang Lijun has been made Bo Xilai's scapegoat:

估计有人要搞薄都督,想阻止他进常委分赃,先卸了都督的左右膀,都督当然为了自保要牺牲王立军,在文革时连自己老爹都能把他肋骨踹断几根的人,牺牲王立军算什么,王立军估计看到处境不行,也知道都督会把他出卖,所以为了自保,做出跑到美使馆的事,精彩大戏正在上演。

I think someone wants to stop Bo from entering the Politburo standing committee and they do this by taking away his arms. Bo will sacrifice Wang Lijun to protect himself. During the cultural revolution, he even broke a few ribs of his dad's, so betraying Wang Lijun is nothing. Wang Lijun probably sensed that Bo would betray him, which is why he ran into the U.S. Consulate. This is such an exciting opera.

Alan Huang feels that Wang has been too naive in his political career:

蒙古族人王立军从小练得一身好武术,如果领导内蒙古独立,估计能成民族英雄,丫非走蒙奸的道路,最终身败名裂。在这个拼爹的年代,出生于铁路工人家庭的王立军,竟然幻想和太子党党魁薄熙来鱼死网破。连店是谁开的还没搞清楚就敢来砸场子,相当naïve啊。

Mongolian Wang Lijun learned martial arts since he was very young. He could have led the independence movement of Inner Mongolia and become a national hero. But, he betrayed his people and lives in shame. In a society where people's status is defined by that of their fathers, there is no way that a railway worker's son can fight against the head of the princelings, Bo Xilai. He has no idea who is in control, so naive.

Qiumazha on the other hand feels [zh] that Wang has made a good move:

我忽然觉得,王立军不傻。闯美领馆避难只是寻求轰动效应,以防被蒸发。另外,他声称他已经将内幕证据等放在了安全的地方,杀他就会自动解密。谁知道这个安全的地方就不是美领馆呢?这个老侦查出身的人,应该比好莱坞谍战片编辑更有想象力。嘲笑王立军闯关之举恐怕是不智的。

Suddenly I feel that Wang Lijun is not stupid at all. He ran into the U.S. consulate in order to draw public attention, so that he wouldn't be vaporized. In addition, he claims that he has all the evidence [on Bo] hidden in a safe place. In the case that he's killed, the secrets will be revealed. That safe place might be the U.S. consulate. He has enough investigation experience that he should be more imaginative than any Hollywood director. Those laughing at Wang Lijun are too ignorant.

Since Wang Lijun has been very harsh in cracking down on political activists, dissidents in Twitter are happy to see him seeking help from the “enemy forces”.

Gongmingyaoyao mocks [zh] Wang:

王立军教育我们,不管怎么当五毛,关键时刻还是美国人才是亲爹啊

Wang Lijun teaches us that all 50 cents know that the Americans are their daddy in critical moments like this….

Wuyuesanren echoes [zh] Gongmingyaoyao's comment on Sina Weibo:

早就说咱们官员最信任的政府是美国政府,中美关系那不是一般的好,好多人还不信。王立军跑美领馆这事儿再次确证了这种说法吧?我们这帮你们嘴里的美分带路党最多是看好美国的制度,认为值得我们学习,他们才是真把身家性命押在美国那边。五毛们,你们醒醒吧。

I always said that our officials trust the U.S. government more than any other. People just don't believe that Sino-U.S. relations are that good. Now, Wang's move has proven it again, right? For us, those who are labelled as the US dollar gang [as opposed to the 50 cent party], we appreciate the U.S system and want to learn from it. But they [the officials] keep their family and wealth in the U.S. Please wake up, 50 cents!

Shang Guangluan reports [zh] on what he heard from the street:

晕啊,刚刚在小店吃面,听见几个民工都在谈王立军的事,这事儿成了全民娱乐了。但他们集体得出的结论是:王立军肯定被以叛国罪枪毙。这个……

My god… just now I had noodles in a small shop, a number of rural workers were talking about Wang Lijun. The incident has become people's entertainment. Their conclusion is: Wang Lijun will be shot to death for treason…

Political dissident Ye du points out [zh] that:

【网络热点观察】全民网络热炒王立军。王捕头事件深刻反映了在一个互害型社会里,即使是体制中人,也没有一个人是安全的。今天加害于人的,明天也随时因为站队、利益等问题而被害。这就是为什么我们说一个民主社会的来临才是全体公民福泽的原因,这样才可避免互相恐惧、互相伤害。

[Observation online] All people are talking about Wang Lijun online. The incident shows that in a society where everyone hurts everyone else, even though you are from the Establishment, there is no safety. Today you hurt someone, tomorrow you will be hurt either because of the clan you belong to or over someone's interests. That's why we say democracy is the way out of such mutually inflicted fear and harm.

Writer Ye Kuangzheng believes [zh] that Wang Lijun's move signifies a turn in China history:

王立军进入美国使领馆,已被证实。这是1949年以来,高层官员第一次做出这种令人震惊的举动。林彪那次属出走未遂。由此可想象,王所置身的政治环境,没有巨大恐惧,极难迈出这一步。王立军的这一步,王立军的未来,会对中国未来的政治生态和官员心理有重大影响。王立军引发的政坛地震,也只是刚刚开始

It has been proven that Wang Lijun did enter the U.S consulate. This is the first time since 1949 that such a high-ranking government official has made such a shocking move. Lin Biao's escape, that failed. The fear that Wang is was confronting must have been enormous, or else he wouldn't have made such a move. Wang Lijun's actions and his future will have significant influence on China's future political ecology and the psychological state of government officials. This political earthquake has only just begun.

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