Warrant issued for Guo Wengui, Chinese billionaire threatening to expose corruption
Interpol has issued a "red notice'' seeking the arrest of Guo Wengui, a Chinese billionaire who has threatened to expose corruption at the highest levels of the ruling Communist Party.
Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang gave no details about Guo's alleged crimes, but The South China Morning Post reported that he is suspected of bribing a former top official in China's intelligence service.
The Interpol notice has raised the stakes in a tense standoff between Chinese authorities and Guo, a real estate tycoon who disappeared from public view in 2014 but resurfaced in recent months, dramatically claiming in interviews with overseas Chinese media and a stream of Twitter posts that he held damning information about party elites.
Guo's case has been closely followed by Chinese political watchers, who say that his leaks could potentially rock the political jockeying between internal factions that is currently taking place ahead of the 19th Party Congress expected this fall, when a new generation of party leaders will be chosen.
A "red notice'' for Guo could also revive concerns over the election of a top Chinese police official as Interpol's president in November. He is believed to be in the U.S. or Britain, two countries that do not have extradition treaties with China.
Guo is suspected of giving $8.8 million in bribes to Ma Jian, a former deputy head of China's intelligence service who was charged with corruption in February, The South China Morning Post reported, citing anonymous sources briefed on the Interpol notice.
Guo did not respond to questions about his relationship with Ma but said that he believed the Interpol notice was issued by Chinese authorities to pressure him to forgo a scheduled live interview later on Wednesday evening with US-government-funded Voice of America.
Guo said Chinese agents had ramped up their threats against him and VoA in recent days.
He dismissed the Interpol notice as an ineffectual ploy from the Chinese leadership.
"It's all lies, all threats,'' Guo said. ``It shows they are scared of me leaking explosive information.''
As Guo's live interview with VoA began late Wednesday as planned, the programme's hosts told viewers that Chinese officials had summoned the media organisation's representatives in Beijing to warn them against airing the program and giving Guo a platform to air unsubstantiated allegations.
That may have explained why the program came to an abrupt end 80 minutes later, well before the scheduled three hours was up.
As Guo launched into a meandering description of the intrigue and mutual suspicions gripping leaders in the highest echelons of the Communist Party, a VoA host suddenly halted the broadcast, saying they needed to immediately stop "due to certain kinds of reasons.''
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.
Guo was not listed on Interpol's website and agency officials declined comment, saying that Interpol does not comment on specific cases without the agreement of the member country involved as a matter of policy.
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 instrumentalisation 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 Wednesday on Twitter.
A "red notice'' issued by the Lyon, France-based International Criminal Police Organisation is the closest instrument to an international arrest warrant in use today. Interpol circulates those notices to member countries listing people who are wanted for extradition.