China Admits to ‘Coercive Measures’ to Extract Confession from Associates of Dissident Billionaire

RFA Discussion - Guo Wengui a Chinese billionaire businessman turned political activist
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Chinese police held a press conference on Monday in which they claimed twin brothers Chen Zhiyu and Chen Zhiheng forged documents at the behest of dissident billionaire Guo Wengui and leaked them to the Washington Free Beacon, leading to the publication of two stories embarrassing to the Chinese government.

Chinese authorities admitted to using “coercive measures against the Chen brothers,” as the state-run Xinhua news service puts it, to obtain elaborate forced confessions.

The first Washington Free Beacon story denounced by the Chinese was published on October 9, 2017. Guo Wengui was identified as the source for the relevant Chinese government documents in its opening paragraphs:

China earlier this year ordered the dispatch of 27 intelligence officers to the United States as part of a larger campaign of subversion, according to a leading Chinese dissident.

Guo Wengui, a billionaire real estate mogul, disclosed what he said was an internal Communist Party document authorizing the Ministry of State Security to send the spies, described as “people’s police officers.”

Before getting into the substance of his allegations, the Free Beacon piece quoted Guo on his goal of reforming the “kleptocracy” in Beijing and described how the Chinese government is working fervently to have him extradited from the United States to face various charges back home. Guo contends that President Xi Jinping’s vaunted anti-corruption effort is actually a cynical ploy to eliminate Xi’s political opponents. The Chinese government, in turn, has accused Guo of various forms of corruption.

Guo claims he still has connections within the Chinese government who can feed him documents like the one he gave to the Free Beacon, which outlined a plan to place Chinese intelligence operatives at Bank of China branch offices and Chinese diplomatic facilities in the U.S. The plan was portrayed as an effort to infiltrate “anti-China hostile forces in the United States.” Guo himself was named as a target for spying and espionage activities.

According to Guo, the plan laid out in the document has been implemented, and dozens of operatives have been sent to the U.S. by China.

A second Free Beacon story published on January 2, 2018, revealed a “top secret” Chinese plan to provide the government of North Korea with increased financial and military support if Pyongyang discontinued its provocative nuclear tests.

The document contradicted China’s public statements by saying North Korea would be allowed to keep its existing nuclear weapons under this agreement and suggested China would work in several ways to ease the pain of sanctions against the North Korean regime while nuclear negotiations played out.

The Chinese Communist Party document essentially said that Chinese leaders had privately concluded North Korea will never give up its nuclear weapons, so Beijing would require Pyongyang to swear off further testing and development, in exchange for assistance with evading the toughest sanctions followed by heavy support for recovery after a nuclear deal was announced and sanctions were lifted. The top Chinese priorities laid out in the document were avoiding war on the Korean peninsula, the collapse of the North Korean government, and Russia swooping in to take advantage of Pyongyang’s estrangement from Beijing.

The WFB piece was posted shortly after Chinese ships were detected transferring oil to North Korea by satellite surveillance, prompting President Donald Trump to declare that China had been “caught RED HANDED” violating sanctions (Caps in the original, as the president leveled this accusation on Twitter).

The January 2 article did not identify Guo Wengui as the source of the North Korea document; the source was said to be “a person who once had ties to the Chinese intelligence and security communities.” However, it referred back to the October 9 article about the secret police infiltration plan and mentioned Guo was the source. Both pieces were written by Bill Gertz of the Washington Free Beacon.

The Chinese government immediately claimed both sets of documents were forgeries and denounced the articles as “fake news,” a fact the WFP noted in both articles.

Monday’s press conference by the Municipal Public Security Bureau of Chongqing claimed the Chen brothers forged the papers to Guo’s specifications, along with some 30 other documents purportedly framing various agencies of the Chinese bureaucracy for nefarious activities and falsely accusing officials of adultery and corruption.

“Police also discovered a large number of forged official documents of state organs in the suspects’ computers and hard drives, involving areas such as China’s national defense, diplomacy and financial policies. They found fabricated files of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection,” Xinhua reported.

In a forced confession, Chen Zhiyu claimed he forged papers for Guo to obtain financial and medical assistance for his autistic child. He said he and his brother were living in Canada when they launched a professional forgery career in 2013 and went to work for Guo in 2017 after they saw his offer of a reward for confidential Chinese government documents.

The Chongqing police claim they recovered incriminating chat logs from the Chen brothers’ computer systems to substantiate these allegations, including one where Guo offered to pay Chen Zhiyu $4,000 a month to work for him, along with access to a $50 million foundation.

“Police will work with U.S. law enforcement to further investigate the case of Guo, who falsely claimed the forged documents were verified by U.S. government institutions such as the FBI, and offered political funds to several members of the U.S. Congress and former officials of the U.S. government,” the Xinhua report concluded.

The Hong Kong Free Press notes that a very big deal was made of the Chonqing press conference, with foreign reporters invited to attend in advance, “an unusual move in criminal matters.”

The Hong Kong Free Press drew a comparison between the videotaped confession of the Chen brothers and a recent report from a human rights group, the Safeguard Defenders, blasting China’s practice of using intimidation and torture to extract confessions from prisoners. The Chen confessions were broadcast to the public on Monday night by Chinese state television.

At the same press conference in Chongqing, Chinese authorities stepped up their efforts to extradite Guo Wengui by leveling new allegations that he made illicit campaign donations to American politicians. A police spokesman told the Financial Times that these allegations are “still under investigation” and his agency is not yet prepared to name the politicians Guo allegedly donated to, but promised, “we certainly have the evidence.”

The Financial Times also mentions allegations against former Republican National Committee deputy finance chair Elliott Broidy for allegedly working to persuade President Trump to extradite Guo Wengui to Abu Dhabi, from whence he would presumably fall into the clutches of the Chinese government.

Broidy denied the allegations and said they were a “fabrication driven by hackers” from Qatar who seek to undermine Gulf states, such as the United Arab Emirates, that have imposed sanctions against Qatar for supporting terrorism. Broidy’s counter-accusations include claims that incriminating documents are forgeries, so just about every party to this complex story accuses one of the other parties of manufacturing phony paperwork.

In their videotaped confession, the Chen brothers claimed that Guo instructed them to prepare documents that would falsely incriminate President Trump in illegal activities, presumably as insurance against Trump refusing to grant Guo asylum. The brothers said they refused this request.

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