PM avoids local political controversy on China visit
John Size, CTVNews.ca
Published Saturday, February 11, 2012 9:31PM EST
Prime Minister Stephen Harper seemed to cruise easily through a political controversy swirling around him during the final leg of his trade mission to China this week.
His last bilateral meeting was with an ambitious Chinese leader, Bo Xilai, a man who appears to have his sights set on the major leagues of that country's ruling communist party.
Bo is currently the southwestern city of Chongqing's communist party secretary and the son of a former high-ranking Chinese Politburo member. Bo is expected to be promoted to a similar post later this year.
The meeting, one of several with future Chinese leaders, occurred without Harper shaking his hand in public. Instead the two met in private, away from the prying camera lenses of journalists.
Bo's political future was cast in doubt in recent days after his protege Wang Lijun spent a day in a U.S. consulate, allegedly seeking asylum after he was demoted as police chief and reassigned.
"The Chinese say that Wang is gone to Beijing and is on vacation-style treatment," CTV's Roger Smith said in an interview.
"This did not come up during the meeting the prime minister had with Bo Xilai and it remains sort of a mysterious case of infighting that there aren't many details of in the media here,' Smith told CTV's News Channel Saturday.
In his role as top cop, Wang had helped carry out a crackdown on organized crime groups seen as part of a campaign to promote Bo.
On Saturday, Harper and Bo sat across from each other at a large conference table, neither acknowledging the dark cloud hanging over the Chinese leader's future.
But the meeting did end with a deal to send two giant panda bears to Canada for 10 years, something that indicates warming relations between the two countries.
Harper attempted to inject some levity into the moment by quipping to the Chinese leader, "More people in Canada will notice the pandas than anything else."
Bo didn't laugh.