AFP Friday, 21 April 2017 333 views

Tycoon accuses Beijing of halting interview

BEIJING (AFP) – A Chinese property tycoon yesterday accused Beijing of meddling in an interview with a US broadcaster during which he had vowed to air corruption allegations against high-ranking Communist Party officials.
 

Guo Wengui, an outspoken critic of the Chinese government, was one-third of the way through a three-hour interview when Voice of America abruptly stopped its live stream with no explanation.
 

The billionaire, who has lived abroad since leaving China two years ago, had said he planned to reveal the business ties of Chinese leaders, which could undermine Chinese President Xi Jinping’s efforts to consolidate power ahead of a key party congress later this year.
 

“Pressure from various aspects caused Voice of America to suddenly cut off the program,” Mr. Guo said in a video posted on Twitter.
 

“Moving forward, my expose will continue. I will release relevant documents everything is just getting started.”
 

Wednesday’s interview – which VOA had promoted as being a three-hour long program – came as China confirmed Interpol had issued a “red notice” for Mr. Guo, who is reportedly suspected of paying 60 million yuan ($8.72 million) in bribes to disgraced former Chinese state security vice minister Ma Jian.
 

VOA journalists said in the interview that Chinese foreign ministry officials had contacted the broadcaster before the program and expressed concerns about them giving a platform to a “criminal suspect”.
 

The officials had declined to respond to Mr. Guo’s allegations, VOA said.
 

Bridget Serchak, VOA’s director of public relations, said the live stream had been scheduled to end after an hour and that material from the remainder of the interview would be released separately.
 

“In a miscommunication, the stream was allowed to continue beyond the first hour,” Mr. Serchak said in a statement. “When this was noticed the feed was terminated.”
 

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang declined to comment on the interview during a regular press briefing yesterday.
 

While Mr. Guo has not directly criticized Mr. Xi, he has accused the government of being politically selective in a highly-publicized anti-corruption campaign that has put many wealthy businessmen behind bars.
 

In an apparent attempt to discredit Mr. Guo ahead of his VOA appearance, the state-owned Beijing News published a story alleging the real estate mogul had been involved in shady business deals.
 

The article also mentioned YouTube videos that show Mr. Ma, who is in jail on suspicion of corruption, discussing bribes he took from Mr. Guo.
 

Forced confessions are common and often broadcast on state media in China, where courts are overseen by the Communist Party.
 

Mr. Guo told VOA that Beijing was trying to use the Interpol notice to stop him from speaking out.
 

The president of Interpol, Meng Hongwei, was previously China’s vice minister of public security – the first Chinese official to hold the post.
 

His election last November sparked concern he would give Beijing more leverage to use the agency to track down dissidents abroad.

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