A missing woman, who is arguably China’s wealthiest, briefly reappeared on Sept. 4.
Duan Weihong, also known as Whitney Duan, has not been seen since 2017 when she ran afoul of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) politics and vanished.
The woman became a target after setting up firms and arranging deals with relatives of Wen Jiabao, China’s then premier between 2003 to 2013.
Ex-husband Desmond Shum confirmed Duan phoned him late at night to urge him to refrains from publishing a new book about China’s cutthroat corporate elite. Her conversation is suspected of being monitored by Beijing.
Shum, a former high-powered business partner, lives in Oxford with the pair’s 12 year-old son. They have waited to speak with Duan, 50, for the past four years.
“She asked me to cancel the book’s publication [and] she said if I refused to do that, it may anger the Chinese government and security services,” he said in a statement obtained by Fairfax Media. “In two phone calls that I believe were made at the behest of high-placed CCP officials, and monitored by China’s security services, Whitney told me that she is on temporary release and could be re-detained at any time.”
The father suspects his ex-wife was handed a script and pressured to read it out over the phone.
“That is the tough part, that is the communist party,” he said according to the New York Post. “They intentionally did that, right? It is psychological warfare.”
Shum had no idea whether Duan was dead or alive after the CCP “abducted” her. He assumes she phoned him under duress.
“I believe she was forced to do this because the CCP is afraid of what I have written in ‘Red Roulette,'” he said according to Fairfax Media.
He refused to let the CCP intimidate him, and promised to publish the book despite the slim chance of Duan being released.
The book details the pair’s business dealings with some of China’s most powerful officials. This includes Sun Zhengcai, a potential successor to Xi Jinping, who was imprisoned for life during 2018.
The secret riches of Chinese leaders is a delicate subject in mainland China, and rarely discussed. Many of Wen’s relatives became extremely wealthy during his presidency, according to a 2012 New York Times investigation. The report revealed Duan helped her mother and other relatives invest. She was also a close friend of Wen’s wife.
Her reemergence comes at a sensitive time for CCP leaders, who are more keen than usual to distance themselves from allegations that positions of power benefited them financially.