Bannon, Chinese tycoon accuse Beijing of assassinating own people

Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon and exiled Chinese tycoon Guo Wengui (right) have implicated China in the seemingly accidental death of tycoon Wang Jian. Mr Bannon and Mr Guo say they will use a fund set up by Mr Guo to probe perse
Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon and exiled Chinese tycoon Guo Wengui (left) have implicated China in the seemingly accidental death of tycoon Wang Jian. Mr Bannon and Mr Guo say they will use a fund set up by Mr Guo to probe persecutions such as "fake suicides" and assassinations, which they accuse Beijing of perpetrating.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK • Exiled Chinese tycoon Guo Wengui and former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon have implicated China in the seemingly accidental death of tycoon Wang Jian, accusing Beijing of murdering, imprisoning and torturing its own people on a massive scale.

The two men - at a news conference on Tuesday held amid tight security in a five-star New York hotel - said they were going to use a US$100 million (S$137 million) fund set up by Mr Guo to investigate such persecutions, including "fake suicides" and assassinations, which they accuse Beijing of perpetrating.

Mr Guo is in exile from China and has sought asylum in the United States. Beijing is seeking his arrest.

Together with Mr Bannon, he gave as one example Mr Wang's death in France in July. Mr Wang was the co-founder of the sprawling conglomerate HNA Group.

The French police deemed his death accidental, but Mr Bannon likened Mr Wang's death to the killing of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey, and Russians in Britain. Riyadh has been implicated in Mr Khashoggi's death, and Moscow has been blamed for the death of the Russians in Britain.

Speaking through interpreters, Mr Guo said he had commissioned an inquiry into Mr Wang's fatal fall, which he said revealed "suspect elements" - contrary to the findings of French police.

His investigators made six visits to the French mediaeval village of Bonnieux, and Mr Guo alleged that they uncovered anomalies and evidence of suspicious behaviour among the bodyguards said to be accompanying Mr Wang at the time.

Mr Guo accused them of giving Mr Wang facial acupuncture after he was injured, and refusing other medical assistance.

He also said Mr Wang was killed because "he knew too much" about ties between HNA and the Chinese secret service, to which he attributed the firm's spectacular overseas growth and doubts surrounding its true ownership.

The fund that Mr Guo intends to launch next week will investigate similar cases, and assist victims of the Chinese regime and their relatives.

Mr Bannon - who was sacked from the White House in August last year, and is known for his embrace of populist movements - said he met Mr Guo while at the White House working for US President Donald Trump.

Mr Bannon, speaking at the news conference, said he would preside over the fund as voluntary chairman and would not be taking a salary.

He said: "It's a matter of duty for me. This will all be about facts."

He added that the venture had "nothing to do with the Trump administration".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 22, 2018, with the headline 'Bannon, Chinese tycoon accuse Beijing of assassinating own people'. Print Edition | Subscribe