(AP) A former police chief at the heart of Chna's biggest political scandal in years has been charged with defection, power abuse, and bribe taking, state media reported Wednesday, indicating the turbulent affair is moving closer toward a resolution before the nation transitions to a new generation of leaders this fall.
The official Xinhua News Agency gave no immediate details Wednesday about the charges against Wang Lijun, the former police chief and vice mayor of the southwestern city of Chongqing.
Wang set off the scandal by fleeing to the U.S. consulate in the nearby city of Chengdu in early February after being summarily demoted by the city's powerful Communist Party boss, Bo Xilai. Xinhua said the charges were brought by prosecutors in Chengdu, indicating that's where the trial will be held.
The announcement of the charges against him comes at the end of a brief visit to Beijing by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and will likely be seen by some as timed to send a message to Washington that China would strongly object to any foreign involvement in its internal politics.
During his overnight stay at the U.S. consulate, Wang expressed to the Americans his concerns about the death of British businessman Neil Heywood in Chongqing last November. That led to the British embassy requesting a new investigation, which uncovered that he had been murdered. The case prompted Bo's dismissal in March and the conviction last month of Bo's wife Gu Kailai for poisoning Heywood, a former family associate with whom Gu had reportedly feuded about money.
Gu was given a suspended death sentence while Bo remains under investigation by the ruling party's disciplinary branch for unspecified grave violations of discipline.
Bo had been one of China's most prominent politicians and his downfall had threatened to upset the succession process.
Wang had been his right-hand man in Chongqing, spearheading a controversial crackdown on organized crime that critics say featured torture and other violations of procedure, as well as illegal confiscation of assets and the targeting of political opponents.
The two fell out after Wang brought up Heywood's murder with Bo, who was not called as a witness or otherwise implicated in Gu's murder trial.