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China's Best-Known Police Chief Heads To Jail After Revealing Political Scandal



BEIJING - Wang Lijun, former mayor and head of police in the Sichuan city of Chongqing, was sentenced Monday to 15 years in prison for corruption and attempting to defect for his role in one of the most damaging political scandals to hit China in a generation.

The guilty verdict was not a surprise, but the sentence was much lighter than the life sentence or death penalty that some had expected. The sentence was reduced because Wang -- also a member of the Chinese People’s Congress -- had “rendered a service” and “exposed clues of major law-breaking and crimes by others,” according to Reuters report on the court's ruling.

刘æ™"原: 为何王立军能获轻判? bit.ly/UJKB4n

— 中国茉莉花é�©å‘½ (@molihua_org) September 24, 2012

Why such a light sentence?” --"Jasmine Revolution" on Twitter

Until his spectacular flight to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu in February 2012 made headlines around the world, Wang Lijun, an ethnic Mongol, was perhaps the most famous policeman in China, the right-hand man of Sichuan provincial party chief Bo Xilai; Bo himself may have been in line to become the new No. 2 man in China at the party meeting in Beijing this October. The Wall Street Journal reports that the meeting continues to be postponed.

But Wang’s flight was the opening salvo in a series of blows to Bo’s leadership. Bo had been admired and widely praised for his “hit hard” crackdown on gangs, crime, and corruption in Chongqing, with Wang’s aid. He was also feared for his disregard of suspects’ legal rights and was accused of cronyism by some critics who were safely far away in Beijing.

Bo was removed from his position in March of this year, after the international press reported Wang’s allegations that Bo’s wife Gu Kailai, a prominent international lawyer, had ordered the murder of a British man who had threatened to reveal her business dealings. The death of longtime China resident and British expatriate Neil Heywood, which occurred in November 2011, had previously been labeled alcohol poisoning by the Chinese police under Wang Lijun.

Wang Lijun’s dramatic flight, apparently in fear for his life, suddenly shone a light on the incident, and Bo Xilai and Gu Kailai came under heightened scrutiny. International press probes quickly turned up more than one hundred million dollars in business dealings associated with the Bo and Gu families.

Heywood is said to have helped their son, Bo Guagua, to go to expensive British preparatory school Harrow and then Oxford in England, and subsequently to Harvard. In spite of Bo Xilai’s modest salary in Sichuan, and Gu Kailai’s lack of a job since 2007, Guagua was known to his fellow students as a spendthrift “princeling” who drove fast cars and was not a good student, Asahi Shimbun reports.

Bo and his wife were hastily removed from power. Wang Lijun, meanwhile, left the American consulate under guard after intense negotiations, and was put on trial. He said that he had told the truth to the Americans: Heywood was murdered at the orders of Bo’s wife, the murder was covered up, and that he himself feared for his life because of what he knew.

Reportedly Wang said at the trial that when he tried to tell his boss, Bo, that Gu had murdered the Briton, Bo had covered his ears. Fearing for his life, Wang then fled to Chengdu, where his inconvenient arrival embarrassed everyone, including the Americans.

Behind the scenes, the affair is also a struggle between left and right wings of the Chinese leadership. Bo Xilai, who had cracked down hard on wealthy businessmen and was considered an admirer of harder-line communism, was feared by many proponents of a more Westernized approach. His difficulties have been a boon for them. Gu was given a suspended death sentence in August, effectively a sentence of life imprisonment.

However, Bo has still not been accused of any crime. Wang’s light sentence (he may be eligible for parole after serving half of it) has also encouraged Bo’s supporters to think the party will not be severe.

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Indigenous Women Of Ecuador Set Example For Sustainable Agriculture

In southern Ecuador, a women-led agricultural program offers valuable lessons on sustainable farming methods, but also how to end violence.

Photo of women walking in Ecuador

Women walking in Guangaje Ecuador

Camila Albuja

SARAGURO — Here in this corner of southern Ecuador, life seems to be like a mandala — everything is cleverly used in this ancestral system of circular production. But the women of Saraguro had to fight and resist to make their way of life, protecting the local water and the seeds. When weaving, the women share and take care of each other, also weaving a sense of community.

With the wrinkled tips of her fingers, Mercedes Quizhpe, an indigenous woman from the Kichwa Saraguro people, washes one by one the freshly harvested vegetables from her garden. Standing on a small bench, with her hands plunged into the strong torrent of icy water and the bone-chilling early morning breeze, she checks that each one of her vegetables is ready for fair day. Her actions hold a life of historical resistance, one that prioritizes the care of life through the defense of territory and food sovereignty.

Mercedes' way of life is also one that holds many potential lessons for how to do agriculture and tourism better.

In the province of Loja, work begins before sunrise. At 5:00 a.m., the barking of dogs, the guardians of each house, starts. There is that characteristic smell of damp earth from the morning dew. Sheep bah uninterruptedly through the day. With all this life around, the crowing of early-rising roosters doesn't sound so lonely.

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