Zhou Yongkang, the 67-year-old hard-line Communist Party cadre, controls all of the police in China. And for him, “eliminating someone from the planet is as easy as flipping a hand,” according to a message he sent to frighten a dissident in the United States.
Last summer in 2011, a fellow student of Tang Baiqiao, a well-known Chinese democracy activist and dissident, visited Tang in the United States and delivered the message on Zhou’s behalf.
Tang was a leader of the 1989 Tiananmen student movement and has been vocal in the United States in opposing the CCP. His wife, Felicity Lung, is a senior prosecutor in New York and is the granddaughter of Long Yun, the former vice chairman of the Chinese Communist National Defense Commission. Given that his in-laws have close relationships with top Party officials, and that Tang is one of the most outspoken anti-communist overseas Chinese, he is an obvious target for both temptation and threats.
He says he has been offered—whether dangled in front of him as a way to get him back to China where he could be dealt with, or as a genuine proposition—government jobs in China and a life “as luxurious as heaven on earth.”
Tang says he has been contacted by Party emissaries a number of times, but that he remembers one encounter particularly clearly.
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Zhou Yongkang had invited one of Tang’s university classmates to his home in Beijing in early summer 2011 for a meal. He had Tang’s classmate take down notes, memorize them, then destroy them after he left, Tang said in an interview with the New York-based New Tang Dynasty Television.
There were five points, Tang said in a telephone conversation. First, that he should come to an accord with the Party about the Tiananmen massacre; second, that he should not tell anyone that people have been sent to meet him; third, that if he would move to Thailand or similar country, the Party would foot the bill and set him up; fourth, that there is a lot of money in China, and some of it could be his; and fifth, that if Tang’s family needed anything in China, it could be arranged.
Tang elaborated on the fourth point in an interview with the New York-based New Tang Dynasty Television (NTD). “The fourth point was that China has foreign exchange reserves of two or three trillion, so much money” implicitly hinting that some of it could go Tang’s way. “This is what they told me,” he said.
Zhou also gave Tang’s friend suggestions on how Tang might revise his stance on the Communist Party. “You’ve worked on this liberal movement for over 20 years,” the friend said. “You don’t need to … completely stop fighting for liberty, you can just do it in the form of writing, for example telling your readers that China needs reform. That’s a good way,” he said.
But the final note, a threat apart from the list of five, was the most chilling. “It gave me goose bumps,” Tang said in the interview with NTD. “He said that Zhou Yongkang thinks eliminating someone from the planet is as easy as flipping a hand. No matter who it is, ‘we can get him to disappear from the earth.'”
The strategy, Tang said in a telephone interview, is to initially lure him with a promise of wealth and comfort in China. If that doesn’t work, he’s been warned.
On July 6, 2009, Tang was attacked by several men at a bar in Flushing, New York. The attack was unprovoked and left Tang hospitalized. They didn’t steal anything, and Tang was adamant that Party officials in China were trying to send a message.
“It’s dangerous to say these things,” Tang said in an interview about his recent disclosure. “It’s easy for these people, if they wanted to do something to me.”
In response to Zhou, Tang said he had three points that he asked his friend to send back. The first was “Give up the illusion that we will take an amnesty,” Tang said. The second was,”Whoever you send in the future, remember that we’re equal here.” The third was in response to Zhou’s threat: “You say you can kill someone as easy as turning a hand? Well, the same goes for you. If you can kill someone easily, it means you can be killed easily.”
With research by Michelle Yu and reporting by Ariel Tian.