China's exiled tycoon, Guo Wengui, who is now residing in New York has rocked Chinese politics for months by exposing 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 corruption investigation and soon after a 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 has 225,000 followers on Twitter.
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 yuans (approximately US $8.72 million). Guo issued a rejoinder by appearing in a live interview with the Voice of America (VOA) on April 19, which he described as a “nuclear bomb” about Chinese politics.
Guo explained that his intentions are personal: reclaim his money and life, as well as retaliate against those who persecuted him. At the same time, he put forward seven principles for his personal campaign:
Against using illegal means in anti-graft, against corruption in fighting against corruption, against using public security force in anti-graft, against police-state; Would not stand against people, the country and [President] Xi Jinping.
Chinese Twitterers 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:
For those who support Guo the liar, please understand that Guo is “against the corrupted, not the emperor”. His intention is to make a deal with the ruler – reclaim money, life and retaliate – not for the sake of social progress and democracy. He has transformed himself from a criminal to a hero, manipulating public opinion and evidence of corruption as a trading deal. He will destroy all the beautiful hearts in his deal. All his supporters will turn into bullets and ashes. And they are helping the villain rather than the weak.
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.
However, the VOA interview was abruptly cut with an alleged order from its director Amanda Bennett, who said that Chinese officials mentioned in the expose must be given an opportunity to respond “in advance” to any accusations of corruption.
Hours before Guo's interview was scheduled, China had asked the Interpol to put out a global warrant for his arrest. Many Chinese believe Beijing was behind VOA's decision. Below is a typical criticism on the VOA incident on Twitter:
Balanced news is just an excuse. The reality is that [VOA's leader] dares not offend the CCP and had submitted to its pressure. Balanced news is to let both parties to express their views in full, not to edit the original expression. Should [VOA] take away the other side's opportunity to voice out in the name of balanced news because CCP refuses to respond? Disclaimer is a form of balance in legal term. But we should thank VOA for its malicious act. Now the whole world know that CCP is really scared of Guo Wengui, an egg who dared to crash the wall.[political system]
More dramatically, Guo's wife and daughter who were previously barred from leaving China, visited Guo in New York in mid-May after he had remained on low profile for a month.
But the reunion has not stopped Guo from making further allegation 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 have secret shares in the HNA Group, a prominent aviation conglomerate with a global acquisition spree which included Hilton, aside from owning massive wealth offshore. Guo also accused Wang of having illegitimate children and owning many overseas properties, whose family wealth could reach two trillion yuan [approximately US 300 billion dollars].
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 would remain a key figure in the standing committee of the party's politburo.
News and information about Guo Wengui 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 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 internal power struggle. Others believe the legal action will help reveal more information about corruption in government.
The allegation against Wang Qishan has attracted hundreds of thousands of Chinese netizens flocking to Guo’s Youtube and Twitter accounts to make comments, express support to his exposure while slamming the party’s corrupt top leaders as traitors and calling for the breaking down of China’s network firewall to let more Chinese know the truth.
Many urged Guo to put aside his personal interest and change the political system because only rule of law and democracy can protect individual rights.
Really, Bro Guo, don’t overestimate the impact of your revelation, even such an explosive information relating China’s top leader. Chinese people have become so numb about politics that they will just be onlookers unless their own interests are involved. Remember Lu Xun's depiction of how Chinese people reacted to pubic execution, they just consumed the bloody scene as onlookers. So the top priority should be pulling down the wall [the political system].
@milpitas95035 explained the significance of Guo's revelation:
The power struggle between Jiang [Zemin -retired CCP top leader (1989-2003)] and Xi [Jinping] is that the latter has accused Jiang and his sect for all the wrongdoings and glorified the anti-graft campaign under the leadership of Xi and Wang. They want to take power from Jiang and his sect using anti-graft as the pretext and to gain public support. Guo Wengui's revelation has denounced the anti-graft campaign, revealing to the public how the campaign has destroyed the rule of law, stood upon human rights. It is a fake anti-graft campaign aimed at robbing money [from one camp] and the campaign has endangered the whole country, intoxicating the people and deterring the reform on rule of law and democracy.
Bao Tong, 85-year-old former CCP official who has been in exile after 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:
Some said that Guo Wenguo is a billionaire within the current system and hence he is not clean. My answer is that Guo is the same with me. He was a billionaire inside the system, and Bao Tong was a high ranking official inside the system… As a billionaire, he understands the relation between the rise of China and corruption… Guo's demand is against illegal criminal act, he keeps talking about his position against using illegal means in anti-graft, this point alone has opened up my horizon. I have learned that we can study China from its “red” tradition as well as from its “black” [criminal and illegal] tradition. [The system] can be darker than the triad society…