How do you get fifteen years in a Chinese prison?

Former Chongqing vice mayor and police chief Wang Lijun (王立军) was sentenced to fifteen years in prison yesterday for ”bending the law for selfish ends, defection, abuse of power and bribe-taking” (徇私枉法、叛逃、滥用职权、受贿). A detailed account of the trial was also published by the official news agency Xinhua. Without mentioning him by name, only by position, it was revealed during the trial that Bo Xilai had literally ear slapped Wang Lijun when he told Bo of his wife Gu Kailai’s alleged involvement in the killing of British businessman Neil Heywood. How will Bo Xilai be punsihed for that – or will he? Hopefully People’s Daily offspring Global Times is right when saying ”… justice will eventually trump over any privilege”.

Actually, Wang Lijun got several sentences of seven, nine and two years, that would combine to 20 years in prison, but he was instead given a total of fifteen years, and one year deprivation of political rights. It is likely that his revealing of facts around the Bo-Gu affair helped reduce his sentence.

Besides the bizarre setting of the whole case, it gives some perspective to Chinese criminal punishment. In 2009 Uyghur Christian Alimjan Yimit (阿里木江·依米提) was also sentenced to fifteen years in prison for ”illegally revealing state secrets to a foreigner” (向境外人员非法提供国家秘密). He had told his American friend of the pressure he received from the local religious affairs office. Is that a state secret? In 2010 Uyghur journalist Gheyret Niyaz (海莱提·尼亚孜) was also sentenced to fifteen years in prison for ”endangering state security” by talking to Asia Weekly (亞洲週刊).

Abuse of power is a central issue in all these three cases. Global Times writes also on this: ”Is such abuse of power by Wang [Lijun] an individual case, or is it typical?”. It seems typical to me.