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