If you've been following the Bo Xilai scandal, you've probably noticed some remarkably vague language surrounding key parts of the narrative, but this week much of it is becoming more specific, including what happened at the U.S. consulate where Bo Xilai's chief of police fled in February.
The New York Times' Steven Lee Myersa and Mark Landler report Wednesday about the chaos at the U.S. consulate in Chengdu when Bo's trusted police chief Wang Lijun fled there but was refused asylum, is the latest in a string of small scoops this week that have turned many of the blurry details in this case into a narrative one can almost follow. U.S. officials, it seems, didn't want to botch a sensitive moment in U.S.-China relations as Vice President Xi Jinping prepared to visit Washington. But they didn't want to turn Wang over to the security forces, loyal to Bo, that surrounded the embassy and demanded Wang. Eventually, they turned Wang over to a Beijing official. He's now charged with treason.
On Monday Reuters reported the motive for British businessman Neil Heywood's alleged murder was that he threatened to expose Bo and his wife Gu Kailai's attempt to wire money out of the country. On Tuesday Reuters had it that Bo's trusted police chief, Wang Lijun, fled to the embassy because Bo had tried to block Wang's investigation into Gu's involvement in Heywood's death, which Bo had approved days prior.
Each of these details has been glossed over in previous coverage, even as we learned the very general points of the narrative. When Bo Xilai lost his position as party chief in Chongqing, The New York Times reported only that "his handpicked police chief, Wang Lijun, sought refuge in the United States Consulate in Chengdu." The report from Andrew Jacobs didn't say why, except to cite a Beijing analyst who "said he had heard that Mr. Bo would be investigated and charged with violations relating to Mr. Wang’s case and to evidence Mr. Wang had provided against him." When Britain started pressuring China to investigate the death of Neil Heywood in connection with Bo Xilai, The Wall Street Journal reported that Wang and Bo's falling out had something to do with allegations Heywood had been poisoned and was in some kind of buisiness dispute with Gu, but it couldn't get much more specific than that. Back in February, it wasn't even totally clear why Wang had gone to the embassy. The Chongqing government said he was on "therapeutic" leave.
At one point during the saga, rumors were flying so fast and loose that one report said nobody knew whether there was a coup in China. Now that the pieces are falling into place and we have a narrative, we're going to take all the satisfaction we can from that, because it's just a matter of time before it changes again.