The New York Times Reveals Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s Vast Fortune
The Chinese Premier’s long-built image of a humble leader who understands the woes of the common man has imploded with the recent discovery of his family’s enormous wealth.
According to a meticulous review of corporate and regulatory records, published last week in The New York Times after a lengthy investigation, the family of the Chinese leader has controlled at some point assets worth more than $2.7 billion (£1.7 billion).
The Times found out that Mr Wen’s relatives have accumulated shares in banks, tourist resorts, telecommunication companies, jewellers and infrastructure projects. These holdings include a villa development project in Beijing; a tire factory in northern China; a company that helped build some of Beijing’s Olympic stadiums, including the well-known “Bird’s Nest”; and Ping An Insurance, one of the world’s biggest financial services companies.
The revelations come a month before Mr Wen, 70, is due to retire and are expected to increase the tension in the party and heighten the public’s suspicion around all senior officials. The Chinese leader used to be known as “Grandpa Wen” because of his numerous travels around the country especially to the scenes of natural disasters, where he would comfort survivors and commiserate the poor. He also built the image of a reformer who eagerly combatted corruption and the dangers it poses to the party.
**Party Moves Promptly to Silence the Story**
When asked about a story, the Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said that “some reports smear China and have ulterior motives”.
!m[As Bo Xilai is Stripped of His Official Position, Another High-Profile Political Scandal Emerges in China](/uploads/story/653/thumbs/pic1_inline.png)The English and Chinese-language versions of the New York Times websites have both been promptly blocked for access from within China. Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, also placed restrictions that made it difficult for people to even discuss the issues or personalities raised in the article. The BBC was also affected with the BBC World News Channel blocked when a correspondent for the news agency was asked about the story during a report. The BBC news website also found itself in the restricted list later on Friday.
Many suspect that the growing wealth gap between the super-rich and the millions who remain in extreme poverty is fuelling public anger and this kind of revelation about the Prime Minister could very much hurt the Party’s standing with the people.
The 18th National Congress of the Communist Party, where the country’s leadership will be handed over, is scheduled for 8 November. According to sources of The Times, one of the chief concerns of the Party is to play down the idea that the stewardship of China was merely being handed from one wealthy elite to the next.
**Bo Xilai Stripped of Official Position**
Another high-profile Chinese leader who got himself into serious trouble with the Party on allegations of corruption,Bo Xilai, a former member of the ruling elite politburo, has been stripped of his official position. This means he no longer possesses immunity from prosecution and will soon stand criminal trial.
Mr Bo is expected to be charged not only with corruption but also with the perversion of justice in connection with his wife’s murder of British businessman Neil Heywood. With China’s conviction rate at more than 98 percent, most analysts believe that the impending trial will be nothing more than a technicality with only the severity of the sentence in question. Mr Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai was given a suspended death sentence for the murder of Heywood last year. Wang Lijun, the former police chief who fled to the American embassy where he asked for political asylum and revealed details about the crimes of the Xilai family, was sentenced to 15 years in jail.
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