China moves to discredit tycoon’s claims of Communist Party corruption

A banner supporting the Communist Party of China. (Reuters)
Updated 21 April 2017
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China moves to discredit tycoon’s claims of Communist Party corruption

BEIJING: China on Friday sought to discredit billionaire businessman Guo Wengui, painting him as a “criminal suspect” whose allegations of corruption within the highest levels of the Communist Party should not be believed.
Guo, a flamboyant property mogul who has held close ties to disgraced former Chinese intelligence official Ma Jian, has courted international attention with his explosive claims, most recently aired during a live television interview with the US government-funded Voice of America (VoA) on Wednesday.
China said on Wednesday that Guo was subject to an Interpol “red notice,” a fact Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang reiterated at a regular press briefing in Beijing on Friday.
“If you are willing to believe what he said then that’s your business,” Lu said. “We don’t believe it.”
The Chinese government had pressed VoA to cancel the interview ahead of time, including by summoning one of the broadcaster’s Beijing-based correspondents to a meeting on Monday, sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
The ministry’s comments come amid an apparently concerted damage-limitation effort within China highlighting Guo’s reputation as an unreliable narrator.
A 23-minute video, purportedly of Ma Jian confessing in detail to accepting 60 million yuan ($8.72 million) in bribes from Guo, has circulated on Chinese social media since Wednesday night without being removed by government censors who are often quick to delete politically sensitive posts or unsubstantiated rumors.
The video, which was produced and posted online anonymously, has also been reported on widely by mainland media outlets, all of which are regulated by the government. Reuters was unable to independently verify the veracity of the video.
The widely read Beijing News newspaper, and the respected financial magazine Caixin, also published lengthy investigations into Guo’s business dealings and ties with Ma, a disgraced former state security vice-minister who was first detained in early 2015 and expelled from the Communist Party in December last year.
Guo has said he left China in late 2014 after being tipped off about Ma’s imminent arrest, and has not returned since his company premises were raided amid a heated dispute with state-backed Founder Securities.
Since leaving, he has spent most of his time in the US.
After laying low for two years, Guo resurfaced in February and has since made wide-ranging but unverified allegations of corruption against several top Communist Party officials — past and present — and their families.
He says the information was obtained from Ma, whom he concedes he held a close relationship with but denies bribing.
At Friday’s Foreign Ministry briefing, Lu rejected suggestions the timing of the Interpol red notice was connected to the airing of the VoA interview.
“Interpol has been around for 100 years and has 190 member states,” he said. “For this kind of international organization we think their actions are solemn.”


Basque separatist group ETA apologizes for ‘harm’ it caused

Updated 18 min 24 sec ago
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Basque separatist group ETA apologizes for ‘harm’ it caused

  • At least 829 people were killed before the group announced a permanent ceasefire in 2011
  • Spain’s 2.2-million-strong Basque region is now gearing up for the dissolution of the group created in 1959
MADRID: The Basque separatist group ETA apologized Friday for the “pain” and “harm” it caused during its decades-long campaign of violence and appealed to its victims for forgiveness.
“We have caused a lot of pain, and irreparable harm. We want to show our respect to the dead, to the wounded and to the victims of the actions of ETA ... We sincerely regret it,” it said in a statement released in the Basque newspaper Gara.
The statement came just days before ETA is expected to announce its dissolution.
“We know that, forced by the necessities of all types of armed struggle, our actions have harmed citizens who were not responsible. We have also caused serious wrongs which are irreparable. We ask forgiveness to those people and their families,” it said.
The government in Madrid said the apology was the result of “the strength of the rule of law that has defeated ETA with the weapons of democracy.”
“ETA should have asked for forgiveness a long time ago,” it said in a statement.
ETA waged a nearly four-decade campaign of bombings and shootings to establish an independent Basque state in northern Spain and southern France.
At least 829 people were killed before the group announced a permanent ceasefire in 2011.
Last year it went a step further and began laying down its arms.
In its statement to Gara, its traditional mouthpiece, ETA said it was not alone in being responsible for the violence in the Basque Country.
“Suffering existed before the birth of ETA and continued after it ceased its armed struggle,” it said.
Without specifically mentioning the Madrid government, it called for “all to recognize their responsibilities and wrong caused” and to open the way to reconciliation.
“ETA, the national Basque socialist revolutionary liberation organization, wants to acknowledge by this declaration the harm caused by its armed course, and demonstrate its commitment to definitively overcoming the consequences of the conflict and avoiding a repetition.”
The group has been severely weakened in recent years after police arrested hundreds of its members, including its leaders, and seized several of its weapons stashes.
Spain’s 2.2-million-strong Basque region is now gearing up for the dissolution of the group created in 1959 at the height of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship.
On Thursday, an international mediator, Alberto Spektorowski, said that “failing a last-minute surprise” ETA would announce its dissolution on May 5 or 6.
“The declaration that ETA no longer exists will be very clear,” the Israeli academic, a member of the International Contact Group, told Basque radio EITB.
“I cannot say what words they will use but no one will be left in any doubt,” he said, adding that the announcement would be made across the border, in the French Basque region.