By Jack Hu
Exiled Chinese tycoon, Guo Wengui, who is now residing in New York, has rocked Chinese politics for months by claiming to expose the corrupt lifestyle of high-ranking Communist Party officials. Guo made the allegations ahead of the looming transition in the standing committee of the party’s politburo.
Guo, a billionaire who claimed to have worked closely with the Chinese secret police on overseas operations for years, left China in 2013. In January 2015, China arrested the government’s spy head Ma Jian on suspicion of corruption. Soon after prominent economic news outlet Caixin published an investigative report on Guo and his association with Ma Jian, suggesting that his success in business has been backed by the secret police. In return, Guo accused Caixin’s chief editor Hu Shuli of extortion.
Beijing decided to prosecute Ma Jian on corruption charges in December 2016.
Guo opened his Twitter account in early 2017 and started revealing details of the corrupt practices of government officials including those with hidden wealth outside China. By end of May, Guo had 225,000 followers on Twitter.
Guo has explained that his intentions are personal: reclaim his money and life, as well as retaliate against those who persecuted him. He has put forward seven principles for his personal campaign:
Chinese Twitter users are divided over Guo’s motivations. Some believe once Guo is able to negotiate with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to unfreeze his assets, he will happily work with the party again. For example, @liushui1989 said:
Yet many also believe that as an insider of the political system, Guo’s revelations of the internal power struggle and corruption in the top bureaucracy can shake up the political status quo.
‘An egg who dared to crash the wall’
Among those accused by Guo of being corrupt is Fu Zhenghua, China’s executive deputy minister of public security. In response, the Ministry of Public Security’s social media account released a video confession of Ma Jian accusing Guo of bribing him with RMB 60 million yuan (approximately US $8.72 million).
Guo issued a rejoinder by appearing in a live interview with US government-funded news outlet Voice of America on April 19, which he described as a “nuclear bomb” about Chinese politics.
However, the Voice of America interview was abruptly cut short with an alleged order from its director Amanda Bennett, who said Chinese officials that Guo named must be given an opportunity to respond “in advance” to any accusations of corruption.
Hours before Guo’s interview was scheduled, China had asked Interpol to put out a global warrant for his arrest. Many Chinese believe Beijing was behind Voice of America’s decision. Below is a typical criticism of the Voice of America (VOA) incident on Twitter:
The allegations continue
Guo’s wife and daughter, who were previously barred from leaving China, visited Guo in New York in mid-May after he had kept low profile for a month.
But the reunion has not stopped Guo from making further allegations on Twitter.
Notably, Guo’s posted a series of photos and shareholding charts on his YouTube and Twitter accounts, identifying relatives of China’s anti-graft czar, Wang Qishan, who allegedly has secret shares in the HNA Group, a prominent aviation conglomerate which went on a global acquisition spree, including the Hilton, aside from owning massive wealth offshore. Guo also accused Wang of having illegitimate children and owning many overseas properties; according to Guo, his family wealth could allegedly reach 2 trillion yuan (approximately US $300 billion).
The 19th National Congress of the CCP will be held in Beijing in the autumn of 2017, and there are speculations that 69-year-old Wang Qishan will remain a key figure in the standing committee of the party’s politburo.
News and information about Guo are strictly censored in China, though official media outlets have published stories accusing Guo of bribery, fraud, and rape. However, the comment sections on these news websites have been disabled.
Meanwhile, Chinese tycoon Pan Shiyi, whose name has also appeared in Guo’s allegations, responded with an open letter accusing Guo of working with the secret police in building his business empire.
Both Pan Shiyi and Hu Shuli have filed documents in the United States to sue Guo for libel. Opinions are also split over the legal action.
Some believe that Pan and Hu represent Wang Qishan in the internal political power struggle. Others believe the legal action will help reveal more information about corruption in government.
The government’s anti-graft campaign ‘has endangered the whole country’
The allegation against Wang Qishan has attracted hundreds of thousands of Chinese netizens flocking to Guo’s YouTube and Twitter accounts to express their support for him. Many of his commenters have slammed the party’s corrupt top leaders as traitors and called for China’s network firewall to be dismantled so more Chinese will have access to the “truth”.
Others have urged Guo to put aside his personal interests and work to change the political system because only rule of law and democracy can protect individual rights.
@milpitas95035 explained the significance of Guo’s allegations:
Bao Tong, 85-year-old former CCP official who has been in exile since the 1989 Tiananmen pro-democracy movement, expressed his support for Guo Wengui (via reporter Gao Yu’s Twitter) because Guo has put forward a new agenda for Chinese political transformation:
This article originally appeared on Global Voices.