Bil­lion­aire whistle­blower seeks asy­lum

Bangkok Post - - ASIA -

BEIJING: A bil­lion­aire prop­erty devel­oper who has ac­cused some of China’s most pow­er­ful of­fi­cials of cor­rup­tion has ap­plied for po­lit­i­cal asy­lum in the United States, his lawyer said.

The bil­lion­aire, Guo Wen­gui, who is in the US on a tourist visa that ex­pires later this year, is seek­ing asy­lum sta­tus be­cause his pub­lic charges against Chi­nese of­fi­cials have made him “a po­lit­i­cal op­po­nent of the Chi­nese regime”, Thomas Ragland, a Wash­ing­ton-based lawyer rep­re­sent­ing him, said in a tele­phone in­ter­view on Wed­nes­day.

Asy­lum — even a pend­ing asy­lum ap­pli­ca­tion — would give Mr Guo more pro­tec­tion be­cause he could stay in the United States while the ap­pli­ca­tion was be­ing con­sid­ered, a process that can take years, Mr Ragland said.

“Asy­lum of­fers a level of pro­tec­tion that is dif­fer­ent from hav­ing a visa sta­tus,” Ragland said. “Visas can be can­celled or re­voked.”

From his US$68 mil­lion apart­ment over­look­ing Cen­tral Park in Man­hat­tan, Mr Guo, also known as Miles Kwok, has used Twit­ter and YouTube to pub­li­cise his claims that Wang Qis­han, a mem­ber of the elite Polit­buro Stand­ing Com­mit­tee who over­sees the rul­ing Com­mu­nist Party’s own anti-cor­rup­tion ef­forts, and his fam­ily mem­bers se­cretly con­trol one of China’s largest con­glom­er­ates.

Some of the ev­i­dence he pre­sents to back his claims is eas­ily re­futed or sim­ply dif­fi­cult to be­lieve. But some of his ac­cu­sa­tions, such as those made against the fam­ily of Mr Wang’s im­me­di­ate pre­de­ces­sor, can be cor­rob­o­rated.

Mr Guo’s ac­tions have earned the ire of the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment. In April, Beijing asked In­ter­pol, the global po­lice or­gan­i­sa­tion, to is­sue a global war­rant for his ar­rest. He is also be­ing sued for li­bel in US courts by sev­eral Chi­nese in­di­vid­u­als and com­pa­nies.

The asy­lum ap­pli­ca­tion could present a diplo­matic quandary for the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, which is seek­ing China’s help in iso­lat­ing North Korea af­ter it con­ducted a se­ries of mis­sile tests and un­der­ground nu­clear tests.

Mr Guo is ar­guably China’s most-wanted man, and giv­ing him asy­lum would al­most cer­tainly an­tag­o­nise Beijing, which may in­ter­pret the move as tacit approval of Mr Guo’s tac­tics to un­der­mine China’s lead­er­ship.

Ar­ti­cles in China’s closely con­trolled news me­dia have ac­cused Mr Guo of crimes in­clud­ing fraud, money laun­der­ing and rape.

In April one of his as­so­ci­ates, a former vice min­is­ter of state se­cu­rity, ap­peared in a tele­vised con­fes­sion in which he said Mr Guo had bribed him.

REUTERS

Bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man Guo Wen­gui dur­ing an in­ter­view in April this year.

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