Mystery video suggests power struggle in China

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Exiled businessman’s revelations cast doubt on Xi-Wang alliance.

A behind-the-scenes power struggle in China has burst into the open, following explosive claims by exiled businessman Guo Wengui, also known as Miles Kwok, that President Xi Jinping ordered an investigation into the finances of the family of a close political ally.

The allegations emerged as Xi attempts to further solidify his power ahead of the twice-a-decade congress of the ruling Communist Party in the fall. While a mysterious video has appeared online that aims to discredit Guo’s claims, Guo has been dropping more bombshells on social media, including his notice on Monday of holding a press conference soon.

It all started in an interview aired on U.S. government-funded TV station, “Voice of America,” on April 19. Guo said then Xi ordered Fu Zhenghua, the vice-minister of state security, to investigate the family finances of Wang Qishan, Xi’s close political ally and head of the party’s anti-corruption watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection. Guo claimed that he was in turn instructed by Fu to dig into the matter.

The live broadcast, however, was abruptly cut off, fueling speculation of Chinese pressure. VOA Senior Editor Dong Fang said without clarifying that it was stopped for “various reasons.”

China was quick to respond to the broadcast, with the foreign ministry saying on the same day that Interpol had issued a “red notice” for Guo at Beijing’s request, alerting countries to the fact that he was wanted in China.

Then a mysterious video popped up the next day on the internet, featuring Ma Jian, a former vice-minister of state security, even though he is in detention on graft allegations. In the clip, Ma recounts using his “power and position to benefit Guo Wengui” in return for financial reward.

It is not known how a video of a detained official could have been leaked, given the authorities’ tight grip on politically sensitive materials, prompting speculation that it was a government source to discredit Guo.

Ma was detained in 2015 in Xi’s ongoing crackdown on graft. Xi and Wang have known each other since their youth, and worked closely together in the anti-corruption campaign. But Guo’s revelation, which some play down as being aimed at avoiding his extradition, has given rise to speculation that a rivalry may be emerging between the two.

Guo, a self-made tycoon, fled to the U.S. in 2013 after being accused by Chinese authorities of having made illicit profits. He is thought to be privy to scandalous information about Chinese leaders, including potentially explosive material.

After his VOA interview, Guo made further allegations on his Twitter account. On Monday, he said he would organize a global press conference within the next few weeks to reveal the “truth about the anti-corruption campaign in 2013 -2017.” He said the revelations would be centered on key individuals including Wang, Fu Zhenghua and Meng Jianzhu, a Politburo member now in charge of internal security.

Power struggles are common in China in the run-up to the National Congress of the Communist Party, when changes in the top echelon take place. Before the previous congress in 2012, for example, an attempted escape to the U.S. consulate general in Chengdu by Wang Lijun, former public security head of Chongqing, allegedly seeking asylum, led to the downfall of the head of the city Bo Xilai. Such a turn of events led to the concentration of power on Xi.

Also before the 2007 congress, Chen Liangyu, former top man of Shanghai, fell from power amid corruption allegations in 2006. This was thought to be the result of then-President Hu Jintao’s attempt to solidify his power base by exposing Chen, one of the closest proteges of former-President Jiang Zemin.

But Xi has already accumulated substantial power, to the extent he has now been designated “hexin,” translated as core and meaning a “special leader” status.

By SHUNSUKE TABETA

Nikkei deputy editor Kenji Kawase in Hong Kong contributed to this report.

Nikkei Asia News

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