Flight CA981, which was seven hours into a flight from Beijing to New York, turned around and flew back to China on Aug. 29. Official details on the incident are slim and vague, yet an insider told The Epoch Times that the airline was ordered to turn around by China’s Ministry of National Security due to a top official onboard—at the same level as a Politburo member—who was attempting to flee to the United States.
The Politburo is considered the most powerful ruling organ in China. Its members holds top positions in ministries and regions.
Rumors are being reposted on China’s Sina Weibo microblogging platform that a woman was immediately surrounded by police after the airplane landed, and that a fleeing official was indeed on the plane. Weibo has tightened up censorship and has started to delete comments.
An official statement simply reads, “Due to threatening information received about flight CA 981, to ensure the safety of passengers, this flight has returned to Beijing Capital International Airport,” CNN reported.
China state-run media, People’s Daily, said that the cause of the change was a “threat.”
Another publication under People’s Daily, Jinghua Times, published an article saying that the message of the threat was received from “the United States.” It adds, however, that “after two rounds of careful security check after the plane landed in Beijing, the police did not detect any dangerous goods.”
A passenger said that she was not informed of the flight’s turn until it was prepared to land in Beijing, according to the Jinghua Times.
Chinese netizens, however, have been quick to question the claims made by state-run media. “If there was a threat, why didn’t they land nearby and chose instead to travel hours back,” asked one Weibo user, Mark, from Beijing.
Wang Qiang, whose certified Weibo account said he is an official in China’s Ministry of Science and Technology, posted on Weibo that when he questioned a flight attendant why the route map showed that the plane was going back to Beijing, he was told that it was “a map display error.” Wang said he was on his way to a conference in Washington, D.C., and will have to miss it due to the incident.
A photo posted on China’s social media Sina Weibo showed a Beijing International Airport crowded by police after CA981’s landing. “I have never seen so many policemen. They gave us a lunchbox and a bottle of water, but I’m not in the mood for eating at all,” wrote Weibo user nationtiebu, who was on CA981.
“To me it means that whatever happened on CA981 was first, not such an emergency that the plane had to land right away; second, had to be brought back to China for legal issues; three, not suitable to be publicized and had to be covered up,” commented another user, Taoi.
It is a sensitive period for Beijing authorities, as the purge of Bo Xilai uncovered the biggest political scandal in decades and the Communist Party is preparing for its once-in-a-decade leadership change in the fall.
It is common knowledge in China that communist officials, especially the more corrupt ones, have ties to foreign countries and are ready to escape—possibly with large sums of cash.
Two days ago, official reports confirmed that Wang Guoqiang, the Communist Party leader of Fengcheng City in Liaoning Province fled to the United States. Rumors have swirled around China’s Internet that Wang obtained a passport and visa for going to his daughter’s graduation. Official media said he took 200 million yuan ($31 million) with him.
Read the original Chinese report.
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