BEIJING • Mr Guo Wengui, an exiled Chinese billionaire who has accused some of the most senior officials of China's Communist Party of corruption, has applied for political asylum in the US, the New York Times (NYT) reported yesterday.
Mr Thomas Ragland, a Washington-based lawyer, told NYT that Mr Guo, who is in the United States on a tourist visa expiring this year, was seeking asylum because his accusations made him a "political opponent of the Chinese regime".
Even a pending asylum application would give Mr Guo more protection because he could stay in the US while the application was being considered, Mr Ragland said.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said he was unaware of the situation when asked about it in Beijing.
Mr Guo, who left China in 2014, has emerged as a political threat to China's government in a sensitive year, unleashing a deluge of corruption allegations against high-level officials of the ruling party.
The businessman has made it clear that he wants to disrupt an important Communist Party congress, which is held every five years and due to begin on Oct 18.
Despite providing scant evidence, Mr Guo's standing as a former billionaire insider with ties to senior intelligence officials has meant his online video streams and prolific tweeting command attention, as well as the ire of Beijing.
Interpol issued a global "red notice" for Mr Guo's arrest in April, at Beijing's request, while articles in China's state-controlled media have accused him of crimes including bribery, fraud, and embezzlement. He denies the allegations.
Mr Guo is also being sued for defamation in the US by several Chinese individuals and firms, including the HNA Group conglomerate.
The asylum application could present a diplomatic quandary for the Trump administration, which is seeking China's help in isolating North Korea after it conducted a series of missile tests and underground nuclear tests.
But some observers said China is unfazed by Mr Guo's accusations.
"I don't think that Guo Wengui is being treated seriously as a threat at the top of the party. He hasn't been as influential as he thought he could be," Hong Kong-based businessman Chen Ping, who has close ties to members of some of China's most influential political families, was quoted by NYT as saying.