HONG KONG (Reuters) - The former police chief at the heart of China's biggest political scandal in two decades will be tried for treason as early as next month, the South China Morning Post reported on Monday, citing unnamed sources briefed on the case.
Wang Lijun, former Chongqing police chief and a key ally of the city's former ambitious leader Bo Xilai, fled to a U.S. consulate in February, triggering a political storm that led to the ousting of Bo from the Communist Party's top ranks and sparking uncertainty ahead of a critical change of leadership.
"In a bid to have both cases wrapped up before the party congress, relevant departments are at present sparing no effort and racing against the clock," the South China Morning Post quoted sources as saying.
A younger generation of leaders will be announced at the upcoming five-yearly congress to take over the reins in China, although Beijing is considering a delay in its party congress by a few months amid internal debate over the size and make-up of its top decision-making body, sources have said.
Wang sought asylum in the U.S. consulate in February, apparently afraid for his life after he confronted Bo with details of Bo's wife's alleged involvement in the death of British businessman Neil Heywood, sources familiar with the police investigation have said.
The trial would take place in Sichuan province's capital of Chengdu, home to the U.S. consulate where Wang fled, the newspaper said, adding that a special legal team had been set up to handle the trial.
Bo is under investigation for violating party discipline and was suspended from the politburo last month after the revelations regarding his wife's involvement in Heywood's death.
The removal of Bo, who had aspired for one of the top leadership seats, has opened the way for fresh jockeying among rival candidates and interrupts what is usually a carefully choreographed political process.
(Reporting by Sisi Tang)
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