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China-US relations

Was Rupert Murdoch’s ex-wife Wendi Deng spying for the Chinese? US intelligence officials reportedly warned Jared Kushner she might be

Deng worked as an intern at Star TV in Hong Kong, where she eventually became a junior executive – and ultimately met Murdoch, who was the owner at the time

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2018, 2:01pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2018, 10:08pm

US counter-intelligence officials warned US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner in early 2017 that Chinese-American businesswoman Wendi Deng Murdoch might be using their friendship to benefit Chinese government interests, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

Citing unidentified sources familiar with the matter, the Journal said US officials were also concerned that the ex-wife of media magnate Rupert Murdoch – who owns the newspaper – was lobbying to push a major Chinese-funded construction project in Washington.

The bid concerns a planned US$100 million Chinese garden at the National Arboretum, located just steps from Congress and near the White House.

The Journal said intelligence officials consider it a national security risk because it features a 21-metre tower that could be used for surveillance.

Kushner received the warnings as part of regular briefings he receives due to his role as a senior adviser to Trump, who took office a year ago.

Asked about the report, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said: “We really hope relevant people can put the pragmatic cooperation between US and China in all areas in perspective.

“This serves the fundamental interests of the two peoples. We do not want relevant parties to make trouble in the pragmatic cooperation between China and the US.”

A spokesman for Wendi Deng Murdoch said she “has no knowledge of any FBI concerns or other intelligence agency concerns relating to her or her associations,” and denied she was aware of the garden project.

A Chinese-born citizen, she married in 1999 the Australian businessman, who filed for divorce in 2013. But she still uses her married name.

She was born Deng Wen Ge in 1968 in the Chinese city of Jinan before growing up in Xuzhou. She studied economics in the US and obtained an MBA from Yale. She worked as an intern at Star TV in Hong Kong – where she eventually became a junior executive. It was also at Star TV that she met Murdoch. The couple married in 1999, despite him being 37 years her senior.

Before Michael Wolff wrote his explosive exposé of the Trump White House, he produced a tell-all biography of Rupert Murdoch, called The Man Who Owns the News. According to Wolff, Deng persuaded Murdoch to buy a new yacht, despite his reluctance.

“His whole family is like this,” she reportedly complained. “They are so cheap.”

Following the divorce, Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported Deng had developed a crush on former prime minister Tony Blair and that this had contributed to her split from Murdoch.