Image credit: World Economic Forum.
The Communist Party of China (CPC) is to launch an official probe into the alleged ‘hidden fortune‘ of the Wen family, after the Chinese Premier requested the investigation himself in a letter to the Politburo Standing Committee.
Following the New York Times‘ dramatic exposé of an alleged $2.7 billion of assets amassed by Wen Jiabao’s family members, including his son, wife, and mother, the newspaper’s website was blocked to users on the Chinese mainland and various members of the Wen family threatened legal action. However, the Chinese Premier, who was reported as being uneasy about the wealth being amassed by his family in a leaked 2007 US Embassy cable, has requested a formal inquiry into the allegations.
It is unclear what the inquiry is likely to dig up, or when the results will be published, if at all.
The probe is expected to focus on the family’s alleged shares in Ping An, one of the mainland’s largest insurance companies.
The Times report, citing regulatory filings and corporate documents, said that in 2007 Wen’s family had a US$2.2 billion stake in Ping An.
It also alleged Wen’s 90-year-old mother had US$120 million of shares in the company.
According to the sources, several conservative party elders known to dislike the premier’s more liberal stance have urged him to provide detailed explanations on all the major allegations in the Times report, especially on the Ping An holdings.
Wen is reportedly pushing for a “sunshine law”, which would require a public declaration of family assets by senior leaders.
He also said he would be happy to make public his family’s assets.
This would appear to be more than just an attempt by the image-conscious outgoing premier to defend his name, analysts say.
They say it shows he is keen to use the inquiry as one last chance to push forward the long-stalled “sunshine law”. Professor Zhu Lijia, of the Chinese Academy of Governance, said: “It is a ground-breaking step towards greater government openness and transparency.”
He added that if approved, the “sunshine law” could become a milestone in the party’s uphill battle against endemic corruption. But Professor He Weifang , a law expert at Peking University, remains sceptical about the feasibility of Wen’s reported proposal.