Rumours over official's 'holiday'

Thu, Feb 9, 2012, 00:00

A HIGH-PROFILE Chinese official is receiving “vacation-style treatment” for stress, officials said, hours after police surrounded a US consulate, prompting speculation of an attempted defection.

The rumours around Wang Lijun’s sudden disappearance from public life are an unwelcome development for his patron, Chongqing’s ambitious Communist Party secretary, Bo Xilai. Mr Bo has been tipped for promotion when a new generation of leaders takes power in China this autumn.

He appointed Mr Wang to spearhead an anti-gang crackdown in the southwestern city, a move that brought both men acclaim. Mr Wang, a 52-year-old police boss, was appointed vice-mayor in May, with officials praising his courage and innovative approach.

Rumours of a split between the men emerged when Mr Wang was abruptly moved to a non-police portfolio last week. Unnamed sources quoted by the South China Morning Post said a team from the party’s central commission for discipline inspection had recently been dispatched to the city.

Earlier this year, Chongqing officials reportedly commissioned a four-volume history of the anti-Triad campaign, with a film and television series to follow.

Mr Wang’s career seems made for the movies: according to the South China Morning Post, he has 20 scars from knife and bullet wounds, and was once in a coma for 10 days because of his long-term battle with the triads.

On Wednesday, Chongqing’s information office posted a microblog message: “According to information, because of long-term overwork, vice-mayor Wang Lijun is highly stressed and in poor health. He is now accepting vacation-style treatment.”

The remark sounded as striking in Chinese as it did in English and was forwarded tens of thousands of times, with well-known figures joking that they too were receiving “vacation-style treatment”.

In Beijing, the foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin referred reporters to the Chongqing statement. Asked about the heavy security at the US consulate, he said he had no information on the matter.

Witnesses said police surrounded the US consulate in Chengdu, close to Chongqing, on Tuesday evening. Chinese bloggers circulated images of the scene amid rumours Mr Wang attempted to defect following a clash with Mr Bo. – ( Guardianservice)