The first Chinese Internet meme of the Year of the Dragon has emerged:
On Thursday February 2, Chongqing’s Information Office announced that Wang Lijun (王立军)，the triad-busting police chief who has been working under Bo Xilai to crack down on gang crimes in Chongqing would be given a new portfolio in charge of economic affairs in place of his public security post.
Early on February 8, photos began circulating on Weibo showing a large police presence around the American consulate in Chengdu.
Soon after that, people on Twitter and Sina Weibo began speculating that Wang Lijun had sought refuge inside the U.S. consulate and was intending to defect.
Then at 11:06 am, the Chongqing Information Office published the following announcement on their Sina Weibo account:
According to reports, because of long term overwork, a state of anxiety and indisposition, Vice Mayor Wang Lijun has agreed to accept vacation style medical treatment.
The announcement did nothing to end the speculation on the Internet, with some commentators believing that something did happen at the U.S. Consulate and others believing that Wang has fallen into political troubles. Phoenix TV’s iFeng website has set up a special page about Wang Lijun from which the graphic above was taken.
“Vacation style medical treatment” is a translation of the Chinese 休假试治疗 (xiūjiàshì zhìliáo). Some of the noteworthy wags who tweeted on Weibo about “vacation style medical treatment” are real estate boss Pan Shiyi and media figure Hong Huang, tech business star Li Kaifu and former lawyer of Chongqing mob boss Li Zhuang, who offered his assistance to the “patient”.
Update – February 10: The Global Times reports:
China’s foreign ministry Thursday confirmed that former Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun had visited the US consulate in Southwest China and stayed there for a day, according to a statement released Thursday via the Xinhua News Agency.
“Chongqing’s vice mayor Wang Lijun entered the US consulate in Chengdu on Monday, and left a day later. Related departments are still investigating this incident,” the statement said, without elaboration…
…”Wang Lijun did request a meeting at the US Consulate General in Chengdu earlier this week in his capacity as vice mayor. The meeting was scheduled, our folks met with him, … he later left the consulate of his own volition,” Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the US State Department, told the press on Wednesday.
Links and sources
China Geeks: High-Level Defection or Convenient Vacation?
The Guardian: China’s anti-gang police chief placed on ‘stress leave’, China’s gang-busting police chief switched to new duties
The Age: China power play: anti-corruption officials vanish
South China Morning Post: Power struggle set to intensify
U.S. State Department: Press briefing where spokeswoman Victoria Nuland answers questions about Wang Lijun
China Media Project: Wang Lijun and “peaceful Chongqing”, Hong Kong coverage of Wang Lijun, Wang Lijun in China’s news pages
Inside-Out China: Wang Lijun, Bo Xilai, and the US Consulate: What Happened
Siweiluozi’s blog: Wang Lijun, Episode One
The New York Times: Gang-Busting Cop Is One for the History Books in China
Chongqing government Weibo announcement: 据悉，王立军副市长因长期超负荷工作，精神高度紧张，身体严重不适，经同意，现正在接受休假式的治疗
Xinhua / QQ: 重庆副市长王立军超负荷工作 接受休假式治疗
Vacation style medical treatment – 休假试治疗 xiūjiàshì zhìliáo – play the recording below for Mandarin pronunciation: