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Guo Wengui

China launches unprecedented international publicity war against wanted tycoon Guo Wengui

Mainland officials launch unusually savvy media and cyberspace campaign at home and abroad, outside the official firewall

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 April, 2017, 2:28pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 April, 2017, 10:48pm

Chinese authorities last night launched an unusually sophisticated publicity war in conventional media and cyberspace against fugitive tycoon Guo Wengui, who is believed to be still hiding in the US.

Guo, who has also shown himself to be adept at using overseas media to make strong allegations of corruption against many high-ranking Chinese officials, was scheduled to give a three-hour interview with the US-government funded public broadcaster Voice of America (VOA) on Wednesday night.

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He claimed beforehand that he would “drop a nuclear bomb of corruption allegations” against the families of top communist officials.

The VOA live broadcast of the interview, however, was cut short after just one hour. Gao had given two similar interviews to US-based Chinese-language Mingjing media earlier.

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Unlike on previous occasions, Chinese authorities this time launched a blanket pre-emptive publicity war against Guo, using all channels including those outside the official Chinese firewall such as YouTube to discredit him through his alleged links with corrupt officials.

A day before the interview, stories about Guo being placed on an Interpol’s red notice were leaked through various channels to the media in Hong Kong, and confirmed by the Chinese foreign ministry on Wednesday afternoon.

Less than an hour before VOA kicked off the interview with Guo, The Beijing News, a mainland newspaper, published a long investigative story on Guo’s past, detailing his business career and controversial deals. The most surprising part of the report were new details from an “exclusively obtained video of [the disgraced former spy chief Ma Jian] testifying”.

Ma was a close associate of Guo, whom once said he “respected Ma very much”. A corruption probe into Ma was made public in January 2015. His case was handed over to prosecutors in February.

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In a 27-minute-long edited monologue, Ma described in detail the bribes he received from Guo and how he used his power to help him.

In an unprecedented move, the Ma video appeaded in cyberspace on YouTube, an overseas platform inaccessible from the mainland to anyone without a virtual private network (VPN). In previous cases, such “confessions” are usually aired on on state-run television.

Another clip from Ma’s confession, along with two other former Guo associates, were uploaded to the same YouTube account.

The account, called “The truth about Guo Wengui”, was created on March 13, when a video attacking Guo was published. That video was also carried by the social media account of the Ministry of Public Security a day later.

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The filming of the spy chief, who remains in custody while facing prosecution, suggests the video producers had privileged access to detention facilities. So far, except for the foreign ministry’s brief confirmation on Wednesday, there is still no official acknowledgement that any government department was leading the publicity campaign against Guo.