Duan Weihong’s business relationship with Zhang Beili, wife of former Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, is the subject of a new book by Desmond Shum, due for publication on Tuesday.
Shum told US National Public Radio that he received two calls from Duan, also known by his English name Whitney, on the eve of the book’s release.
According to Shum, Duan said she was on “temporary release” and asked her to cancel the publication of Red roulette, which has been widely reviewed over the past week.
“She said they could take her back at any time,” added Shum, who believes Duan is in “house arrest” as her actions are still strictly monitored by Chinese authorities.
Duan also spoke to the former couple’s 12-year-old son, who lives with his father in the UK and was just eight when she disappeared in September 2017.
In an interview with the Financial Times on August 30, Shum said he hoped the book would force Chinese authorities to confirm Duan’s whereabouts.
He added that he had been warned by a well-connected friend in Beijing that “they would not let her come out alive” – or would only release her in a vegetative state. “I was shocked when I heard this,” Shum said. “It’s still going through my mind. “
Besides his connections with Wen’s family, Duan was also close to Sun Zhengcai, the youngest member of the Chinese Communist Party’s political bureau and a possible successor to President Xi Jinping, until he was arrested for alleged corruption in July 2017.
Xi is now widely expected to serve an unprecedented third term as secretary general at the party’s 20th convention late next year.
Shum said Zhang typically takes a 30% stake in projects and investments that she has helped him and Duan gain access to. Wen and Zhang, whom Duan and Shum affectionately referred to as “Aunt,” have never been charged with wrongdoing.
We still don’t know who is holding Duan. While it is common for Chinese business and political figures to disappear for long periods of time during party or national security investigations, their detentions are usually confirmed either by the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection or by the party. the prosecutors and the courts dealing with their cases.
In January 2017, Xiao Jianhua, a financier with ties to senior party officials, was kidnapped from the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong by Chinese public security officers and taken across the border, according to people close to his disappearance. Xiao’s whereabouts remain a mystery.