Thu, May 04, 2017 - Page 6 News List

VOA suspends reporters over tycoon’s interview

Reuters, BEIJING

US government-backed Voice of America (VOA) has suspended its Mandarin-language service chief and four other staff involved in interviewing Guo Wengui (郭文貴), a US-based Chinese businessman wanted by the Chinese government, it said yesterday.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on April 20 said that Interpol had issued a “red notice” for the controversial property tycoon, who has made repeated claims of high-level corruption within the Chinese Communist Party.

China’s confirmation of the “red notice,” an international alert for someone wanted for extradition, came on the day VOA interviewed Guo in an hour-long live-stream in which he elaborated on his accusations of graft in the top echelons of the party.

The interview ended abruptly, leading some to speculate it had been cut short.

Dong Fang (東方), a reporter for VOA’s Mandarin-language service who was involved in the interview, said on Twitter on Monday that he would be suspended for an undisclosed period from Tuesday while the news agency investigated.

Dong, who is based in Washington, according to the VOA Web site, called the investigation “unexpected” and said he would have to hand over his electronic equipment, his key to the office, and he would not be allowed to use his VOA e-mail, though he would still be paid.

“VOA Mandarin Service Chief Sasha Gong (龔小夏) and four other Mandarin-service employees have been placed on administrative leave pending a full investigation,” a VOA spokeswoman said in an e-mail yesterday.

Gong, who is also US-based, could not be reached for comment.

The three other VOA Mandarin-service employees who Dong identified as on administrative leave also appeared to be US-based.

VOA did not identify the other three employees and Reuters was unable to independently verify the accuracy of Dong’s list.

China has not said what crimes Guo is suspected of committing.

Guo has denied wrongdoing and said he would not be deterred in his fight against corruption.

VOA did not give details of its investigation, but said that “decisions regarding the interview with Guo were made by a group of senior VOA leaders led by director Amanda Bennett.”

VOA also said that there was never any discussion of not doing the interview with Guo, or of cutting it short.

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