Wang Lijun and his Smurfs
You don’t know Wang Lijun (王立军). You may have last seen him being charged with various serious crimes committed when he was police chief and Bo Xilai strong man in Chongqing, for which he was ultimately sentenced to 15 years in jail. Yet now you can read about Wang Lijun the man, get to know the guy a little bit better, find out what he was really like in his prime before he fell from grace and blew the lid off the Bo Xilai/Gu Kailai scandal. Turns out that Wang Lijun was just like any other plodding policeman that’s given a bit of power, turning himself into a stern bureaucrat, a pedantic stickler for cleanliness, a faux newspaper editor and professor, a self-obsessed photography enthusiast, and a man completely absorbed in every fine detail of his own image, with a team of photographers (called the Smurfs) and Photoshop handy at all times to make him appear to the world every part of the larger than life man he thought he was.
The Western Sea Metropolis Daily (西海都市报) from Qinghai province today published an expose of the “imperious and domineering” behaviour of Wang when he was still calling the shots (no pun intended) in Chongqing. Based on the revelations of a former secretary of Wang’s called Xin Jianwei (忻建威) as well as others, this expose came to light over the course of this week and was in the last few days published in two other publications as well, namely Southern Weekend (南方周末) and Modern Express (现代快报).
Shortly after Wang Lijun transferred from Liaoning province to Chongqing to become deputy chief of the city public security bureau in June 2008, Xin Jianwei (忻建威) was appointed as Wang’s third secretary. Xin only stayed in this post for four months, however, as Wang was in the habit of constantly shuffling his secretaries. Apparently in his first four years in Chongqing he went through 51 secretaries who variously were in charge of security, food and drinks, recording of events and speeches, taking pictures and shooting videos, trip arrangements, and more.
Photography was somewhat of a speciality for Wang, and the secretaries in charge of photography and videos were actually part of a special team of more than 20 people who all wore blue jackets and were hence known as the “Smurfs” (蓝精灵). The goal of the Smurfs, as directed by Wang Lijun, was to take the kind of pictures that would “move” people – Wang himself took pride in his skill as a photographer and would spend evenings poring over images of himself.
Petty bureaucrat, Faux editor and professor
Wang could be very demanding in terms of food and clothing, requiring that his staff maintain a faultless attire at all times. Once in a hallway when he ran into one his male attendants wearing a suit without a tie, Wang berated him and wanted to punish him severely, only relenting after various pleas for clemency. While demanding unrelenting order and punctuality from his staff, Wang was in the habit of setting out on a journey or inspection tour in the middle of the night. This was his way of testing his staff’s efficiency and determination.
Shortly after he started in Chongqing, Wang shut down the local Public Security Bureau newspaper, Chongqing Public Security News (重庆公安报), and started a new paper with the much more colorful name Police Culture Salon (警察文化沙龙). Although editors and contributors were put in place for the new paper, Wang himself interfered so much with every aspect of the publication, from headline phrasing to image selection, that it became known as “the Wang Lijun show”. Hence apart from running all the stories on Wang Lijun’s “Strike the Black” campaign against corruption in Chongqing, the paper also contained poetry and intellectual musings such as “Boil a pot of knowledge” (烧开一壶水的智慧) and “Grasp the branch of life” (抓住生命的树枝). Every picture of Wang Lijun (taken by the Smurfs) that appeared in the Police Culture Salon was finely tuned in Photoshop to be exactly perfect.
Around the time the “Strike the Black” campaign was coming to a close, Wang became infatuated with using the title “Professor”. Many of his subordinates started calling him “Professor Li Jun”, yet Wang sent out various essays in which he also claimed a number of titles such as “Legal expert” and “Specialist forensic investigator”. He also claimed to have registered a number of patents and to have personally designed the police uniform in Chongqing. He himself was apparently usually dressed in a wind-breaker, and always surrounded himself with a troupe of “tall and straight” guards, among which were included two people to constantly watch the movement of his shoulders.
So there you have it – Wang Lijun: Strong-arm police chief and enforcer yet pitifully petty and self-absorbed man with a taste for the finer things of having power.
Links and sources
Western Sea Metropolis Daily (西海都市t): 王立军虚荣、专横跋扈