After his removal as Chongqing police chief, Wang Lijun gives meek and evasive interviews to media
Feb 10, 2012
Wang Lijun, the renowned triad-buster and former Chongqing police chief, appeared humbled and low-key in recent interviews with mainland media following his sudden fall from grace. It is in sharp contrast to his high-profile personality of recent years.
In probably his last interviews before his "sick leave" - with the Guangzhou-based Southern Weekly and the Chongqing Daily in the past week - and after it was announced that he had been stripped of his police chief duties and reassigned to a portfolio that included education and the environment, Wang came across as uncharacteristically meek.
"It is just a normal reshuffle," Wang told the weekly, which wrote that he answered with a flat tone when referring to his new position.
When the weekly's reporter tried to confirm online speculation about the reasons for his job change, Wang simply laughed and asked, "Where did you see those [online rumours]?"
He then said he was headed to a meeting, invited the reporter to visit Chongqing and hung up the phone, the weekly reported.
The report, which the publication posted on its website on Wednesday, was removed within hours, and a spokesman for the weekly could not be reached for comment.
In an interview with the same publication in February last year, Wang said that he did not find any weaknesses "when dealing with criminal cases".
"[But] we don't seem that mature in politics, which [we] should take time to learn about," he said.
Wang, 53, once considered a close ally of Chongqing party head Bo Xilai, made his last public appearance on Sunday to visit Chongqing Normal University.
He told the Chongqing Daily that he "took every new job as a new challenge and a learning opportunity".
Wang became a well-known anti-triad hero in the 1990s due to his heavy-handed anti-crime activities in Tieling and Jinzhou of Liaoning province - Bo's power base.
Wang's anecdotes were turned into documentaries by many print media and television outlets in Liaoning and other provinces, using them as anti-corruption and anti-crime propaganda, while he played a leading role in the shows.
But he has not always been friendly with the media. In October 2010, he vowed to sue journalists and their employers if any "fake" reports about Chongqing's anti-triad campaign were discovered, prompting a public outcry, with some mainland media outlets accusing him of abusing his power and violating the principles of procedural justice in the course of the anti-triad crackdown.
About five months later, on March 3 of last year, he defended his vow to go after journalists, when questioned by mainland media on the sidelines of the People's Congress of Chongqing, saying the threat of legal action was aimed at protecting police officers' human rights.
Referring to accusations that he had violated principles of civil law, he said, "This is a misunderstanding [of my meaning]".
"The general principles of our civil law note that all citizens have the right to protect their own interests, including our policemen, who are also citizens in our country, right?"
Internet buzzes on fate of Wang Lijun
While state-run media remained largely silent about the alleged defection attempt by Chongqing's controversial ex-police chief and ally of rising political star Bo Xilai, mainland web users went wild
Feb 10, 2012
A search for the name Wang Lijun on Sina's wildly popular microblog service returned more than 540,000 hits yesterday, as mainland internet users were allowed to openly discuss scandalous rumours about the former Chongqing police chief.
Reports that Wang tried to defect to the US consulate in Chengdu this week, along with other rumours, have been disseminated and followed by millions of mainland web users keen on collecting as much information as possible about the political scandal and passing it on to their friends via social media outlets.
Users of the Twitter-like service, which has more than 250 million registered users, have marvelled at the wild tales about Wang, such as that he put a gun to the head of Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai.
Web users have posted pictures of tight security around the US consulate, political zealots have weighed in with widespread comments, and spectators have followed it all, eagerly awaiting more.
Even those who aren't interested in or familiar with the scandal can see that "Wang Lijun" is a trending topic on the microblog, as his name is listed under the "most popular searched" list on the right side of the page.
Michael Anti, a political blogger based in Beijing, called it "the most tremendous political event that has happened on the mainland in the era of social media".
"Without microblogs, people wouldn't be discussing this or even believe that it is actually happening," he said.
"It has also raised new challenges, especially for local governments, of how to react properly to the rapidly evolving medium."
On Wednesday morning, the Chongqing municipal government's information office posted a statement on its microblog account, saying: "Due to long-term overwork, a high level of mental stress and physical exhaustion, Vice-Mayor Wang Lijun is currently receiving vacation-style treatment."
The post was forwarded tens of thousands of times by mainland microbloggers before the office deleted it a few hours later.
But the office then reposted it with an apology saying its removal was "a mistake by the web editors".
Users have since latched on to the phrase "vacation-style treatment", turning it into a popular internet meme and using it to joke that leaders are so thoughtful and generous towards their comrades.
Many others have turned the phrase, applying it various situations, such as: "School starts tomorrow, and I don't want to go. I need vacation-style treatment."
A search for the phrase alone returned more than 400,000 microblog results yesterday.
After the rumours began spreading on the Sina microblog site on Tuesday, censors blocked phrases such as "Wang Lijun", "Bo Xilai" and "US consulate".
With the exception of Bo's name, the bans were soon lifted, a rare move by mainland internet censors when dealing with such a sensitive issue.
All the same, contrasting the relatively unfettered access to the rumours on social media and online portals, traditional state-run media stayed quiet or provided limited coverage of the dramatic incident.
Professor Zhang Ming, who teaches political science at Renmin University in Beijing, said that when officials acknowledge that something has happened, it is less likely to be censored on microblogs.
However, he said, other media formats must still follow strict government rules on what they can publish. (SCMP), 2