A conservative journalist admitted to taking a $100,000 payment from a businessperson connected to a controversial Chinese billionaire, according to newly unsealed court filings.
The journalist, Bill Gertz, was fired from the Washington Free Beacon last year for what the publication called an “undisclosed financial transaction” with someone he covered.
The disclosure sheds light on the journalist’s mysterious firing last fall and offers a window into that billionaire’s connections to influential China hawks.
In a deposition from Oct. 15, Gertz told lawyers for a company involved in a lawsuit with another company connected to billionaire Guo Wengui, aka Miles Kwok, that he had approached Guo for an advance for Deceiving the Sky, his latest book on China that was published last year. Gertz described it as a “loan” that would be paid back using his book royalties.
Gertz testified that Guo turned him down; Gertz then approached Hong Kong financier William Je, whom he described as an “associate” of Guo’s. Je supplied the journalist with the loan of $100,000. Gertz said in his deposition that he did not remember whether Guo encouraged him to approach Je.
Gertz testified that he had asked Je about the source of the money and was told that it was from a “sovereign wealth fund in the Middle East.”
When the outlet fired Gertz last year, the Free Beacon attached a disclaimer to many of the stories he had written about Guo. The disclaimer said the company had “recently learned that senior editor Bill Gertz entered into a previously undisclosed financial transaction with an individual or an affiliate of that individual whom Mr. Gertz had covered in some of his reporting.”
The Free Beacon declined to comment for this story.
Gertz did not respond to requests for comment. Through a lawyer, Guo declined to comment.
Guo, a controversial figure in US–China politics, is a vocal dissident and a critic of the Chinese government with a complex backstory. Self-exiled from China after facing allegations of fraud and bribery he has denied, he has been living in a multimillion-dollar apartment in New York City and seeking asylum from the US government as China has sought his extradition.
The documents outlining Gertz’s testimony became public this month in court filings by lawyers for Strategic Vision, a conservative firm that was employed by Eastern Profit, a company tied to Guo, to conduct research on certain Chinese nationals.
Strategic Vision was later sued by Eastern Profit for breach of contract in a complicated lawsuit in which the researchers responded with allegations that the company gave the firm malware and asked Strategic Vision to look into people whose records had a “protected” status, indicating they could have had some involvement with the US government. In court filings, Strategic Vision accused Guo of not being a true dissident, but instead an agent for the Chinese government, which he has denied.
Je is the CEO of ACA Capital, a Hong Kong–based investment fund that Gertz identified as “Guo’s company” in a 2017 story for the Free Beacon. In the documents connected to the case, Strategic Vision’s lawyer asserted that ACA Capital was used to pay both Gertz and Strategic Vision.
In another deposition attached to the case, Sasha Gong — the former head of Voice of America’s Mandarin service who was fired from VOA following an aborted hours-long interview she conducted with Guo — testified that the billionaire had told her Je was the “money guy.”
Je didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Guo has proved a litigious presence in the US, bringing lawsuits against several media outlets that have covered him, as well as Strategic Vision. He has allied himself with former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon; a leaked 2018 contract showed that Bannon was set to receive $1 million that year from Guo’s company Guo Media, and the two announced a nonprofit in 2018, the Rule of Law Fund, aimed at countering China. A related group also founded by Guo and Bannon, the Rule of Law Society, also listed Gertz among its board of directors.
Gertz has written frequently and critically over the years about the Chinese government, and he has written frequently about Guo. In his deposition, he said he would travel to New York regularly to meet with Guo, and that their relationship was “a combination of both a professional, as a source, as well as some friendship.” Gertz said he had once been on his yacht.
After leaving the Free Beacon last year, Gertz rejoined the Washington Times full time, where he had previously worked for decades. In his deposition, he said he had discussed the payment with the Washington Times.
Washington Times editor Christopher Dolan did not respond to a request for comment. Gertz also testified that his book’s publisher, Encounter Books, was not aware of the transaction; a spokesperson for Encounter Books did not respond to a request for comment.