Voice of America distances itself and US government from Guo Wengui claims
Letter to HNA says broadcaster had not endorsed or verified statements made by controversial exiled tycoon in April interview
US broadcaster Voice of America (VOA) has sent a letter to Chinese conglomerate HNA saying the views expressed by exiled tycoon Guo Wengui during an interview in April did not represent its views or those of the US government.
The letter was a response to an earlier letter sent by HNA to VOA in early June, seeking clarification on the matter.
In his live television interview, the controversial property tycoon thrust HNA into the centre of his storm of corruption allegations against the top ranks of China’s ruling Communist Party. HNA later denied the allegations and filed a defamation lawsuit against Guo in New York.
Both VOA and HNA confirmed the authenticity of the letter to the South China Morning Post.
Signed by VOA director Amanda Bennett, dated July 30, and addressed to Andrew Levander, a New York-based lawyer representing HNA, it said the decision to invite Guo for the interview did not suggest any endorsement of his claims.
“VOA never stated that Mr Wengui (sic), or any statement by Mr Wengui, should be understood to represent the view of the VOA, or otherwise represent the official views of the United States government. Nor should the decision to have Mr Wengui on the show be understood to indicate that the VOA or any other part of the United States government has endorsed those statements,” it said.
“The statements made on the show by Guo Wengui were his, and his alone. They should not be understood to be the opinion of VOA, nor understood to have been endorsed or verified by VOA.”
HNA provided a copy of the VOA letter to the Post.
Asked why HNA had sent a letter to VOA seeking clarification in June, an HNA spokesman said that in the April interview, VOA had “offered Guo a chance for his so-called ‘direct exposé’ without verifying the source or the authenticity of his information”, and that the “groundless, false” allegations made by Guo had harmed the group’s reputation.
VOA, which is funded by the US government but operates independently, was the first mainstream Western media outlet to offer Guo a platform to speak his mind.
The interview was promoted by VOA as being three hours long, with Guo promising to drop a “nuclear bomb” revelation of corruption within the party, but was ended abruptly less than halfway through, sparking intense speculation on social media that it had been cut short under pressure, something VOA denied.
In May, the broadcaster suspended five staff members from its Mandarin-language service who were involved in the interview, including hosts Dong Fang and Gong Xiaoxia, and subjected them to a full investigation.
Referring the Post to an earlier statement, VOA said the decisions made regarding the interview with Guo were “based on the journalistic principles of verification, balance and fairness”, and denied any input from the US government or pressure from the Chinese government in its decision-making.
Guo, who was subjected to an Interpol “red notice” hours before the VOA interview, has been hurling corruption allegations against top party leaders on Twitter and live-stream broadcasts from his lavish flat in New York in recent months.
His claims, largely unsubstantiated, come at a sensitive time, with the party eager to maintain political stability in the run-up to a key leadership reshuffle this autumn.
Beijing responded by launching an unprecedented publicity campaign, using traditional and online media, to discredit Guo by highlighting his alleged wrongdoings and taking his employees in China to court for fraud.