A highly anticipated interview in which a wanted tycoon said Chinese law enforcement authorities were harassing him and his family as part of a corruption cover up was interrupted by the broadcaster on Wednesday, sparking intense speculation on social media.
Washington DC-based Voice of America cut the interview short owing to “pressure from various parties”, VOA interviewee Guo Wengui, who is subject to an Interpol “red notice”, said in a video posted on his Twitter feed following the VOA interview.
Government bodies in the US and China have both been blamed by some social media commentators for the abrupt ending, and differing explanations from the parties involved in the interview have left the question open.
The South China Morning Post reported earlier on Wednesday that Interpol issued a red notice for Guo at China’s request.
Sources briefed on the notice said Guo, who has close ties to disgraced former state security vice-minister Ma Jian, was suspected of giving Ma 60 million yuan in bribes. Ma is under investigation for corruption.
Guo said he met officials from China’s graft-busting Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the Communist Party’s Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission in London last year about Ma’s case, adding that facts of the case differed from the allegations in the notice to Interpol.
He also rejected claims of corruption against him.
VOA, meanwhile, attributed the interview’s abrupt end to miscommunication.
“We had multiple plans to conduct additional interviews with the subject for social media and late yesterday made the editorial decision to record this material, edit, and post it in the coming days, Bridget Serchak, Director of Public Relations VOA, said in an official statement.
“In a miscommunication, the stream was allowed to continue beyond the first hour. When this was noticed the feed was terminated. We will release content from these interviews and will continue to report on corruption issues.”
The interview, conducted by VOA journalists Gong Xiaoxia and Dong Fang, was originally scheduled for three hours, but was cut about halfway through with only an apology from the presenter.
In the interview, Guo claimed Beijing was using “terror” tactics against him and his family to cover up evidence he had of corruption at the highest levels of government.
Guo levelled his allegations against Chinese authorities after China’s foreign ministry confirmed that Interpol issued the red notice, which is a request to locate and provisionally arrest an individual pending extradition.
“If they weren’t so corrupt, they wouldn’t be so scared of me,” Guo said in the VOA interview, claiming Chinese authorities had harassed and detained eight of his relatives and many of his employees.
Guo, who claims to have passports from the United States, the European Union and nine other foreign jurisdictions, said many Chinese officials had passed on evidence of graft to him while he had been overseas.
Guo said in the interview he had not used any form of mainland Chinese identification in 28 years and that estimates of his wealth, at around 120 billion yuan (US$17.4 billion) were based on assets belonging to companies controlled by his family.
By Robert Delaney