An elusive overseas billionaire who for months publicly threatened to expose high-level corruption in China’s ruling Communist Party was named in an Interpol arrest notice before he appeared live on a U.S. broadcaster, which abruptly cut off the interview just as he hinted at his allegations.
Guo Wengui gave a Chinese-language interview with the U.S.-government-funded Voice of America for about 80 minutes yesterday [Macau time] before the hosts cut short the program, which was to be three hours. The cutoff raised heckles from VoA’s online audience and questions about Chinese political interference behind the scenes, which the broadcaster denied.
The interview was less than six hours after foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang announced that Interpol had issued a “red notice” seeking Guo’s arrest. Lu gave no details about Guo’s alleged crimes, but The South China Morning Post reported that he is suspected of bribing a disgraced top intelligence official.
In messages to The Associated Press earlier yesterday, Guo said he believed the Interpol notice was intended to pressure him to drop out of the VoA interview later in the day.
Guo did not respond to questions about his relationship with the former top intelligence official but dismissed the Interpol notice as a meaningless ploy from the Chinese leadership.
Interpol’s “red notice” for Guo could also revive concerns over the election of a top Chinese police official as Interpol’s president in November. Guo is believed to be in the U.S. or Britain, two countries that do not have extradition treaties with China.
As Guo’s live interview with VoA began, the program’s hosts told viewers that Chinese officials had summoned VoA representatives in Beijing to warn them against giving Guo a platform for unsubstantiated allegations.
The program abruptly ended just as Guo launched into a meandering description of the intrigue and mutual suspicions gripping senior party leaders, including President Xi Jinping and one of his closest allies. The on-air VoA host said they needed to immediately stop “due to certain kinds of reasons.”
Twitter soon lit up with commentary among overseas Chinese dissidents and political observers about possible political interference. Guo took to Twitter himself to say that China’s foreign ministry was behind the sudden cut.
In a statement, VoA spokeswoman Bridget Serchak said a one-hour interview was planned to be simulcast live on TV, radio and social media, and any additional material was meant to be packaged for editing.
“We had multiple plans to conduct additional interviews with the subject for social media and late yesterday made the editorial decision to record this material, edit and post it in the coming days,” Serchak said. “In a miscommunication, the stream was allowed to continue beyond the first hour. When this was noticed the feed was terminated.”
Bill Bishop, a Chinese political watcher who publishes the Sinocism newsletter, said party leaders appear to be increasingly concerned that Guo will reveal information that would cripple high-level officials who are being lined up for key jobs at the party congress.
“A bombshell that screws up the personnel arrangement is exactly the kind of thing that Beijing does not want,” Bishop said, adding that Guo’s allegations of rampant corruption involving even the top official in charge of the party’s anti-graft agency has thoroughly undermined the party’s propaganda efforts.
Guo allegations have highlighted “the real issue that corruption unfortunately appears to be in the DNA” of China’s system, Bishop said.
Rights advocates have warned that the abuses and lack of transparency within China’s legal system meant there was the potential for Interpol to be misused to attack Beijing’s political opponents.
“Our warnings about the risk of political instrumentalization of Interpol after putting high ranking (Chinese Communist Party) official at the top were not overblown,” Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s regional director for East Asia, wrote on Twitter.
Days before the Interpol notice for Guo, The New York Times published a report citing corporate registration documents and interviews that appeared to corroborate at least some of Guo’s claims about business dealings among party elites. MDT/AP