Panama Papers: dealings by relatives of party figures in China

China condemns papers as western conspiracy and censors reports of offshore deals

 

China has condemned the Panama Papers as a western conspiracy and its censors have restricted access to coverage of the leaked documents, which show offshore dealings by the families of President Xi Jinping and other Communist Party leaders.

“The western media has taken control of the interpretation each time there has been such a document dump, and Washington has demonstrated particular influence in it,” said an editorial in the Global Times, an influential tabloid from the same group that publishes the Communist Party organ, People’s Daily.

China has featured prominently in the investigations, as has Hong Kong, which appears to have acted as a conduit for many of the listings of offshore shell companies.

By some estimates, about 18,000 Chinese officials have fled overseas over the past two decades. The illicit money taken away by them is more than 800 billion yuan (€109 billion).

Nearly one-quarter of Mossack Fonseca’s 34 overseas offices are in China.

“Information that is negative to the US can always be minimised, while exposure of non-western leaders, such as Putin, can get extra spin,” the editorial said. State media make no mention of the reports of offshore dealings of the party elite, and the news is censored on social media.

No evidence has emerged of a direct link between Mr Xi and illegal business dealings and, like most of the senior leadership in China, he would have been ringfenced from commercial dealings years before he began his ascent to the top leadership.

Mr Xi has also orchestrated a vast anticorruption campaign, which has punished over 300,000 party officials.

However, the families of powerful leaders often pop up in searches through company documents. In 2012, a Bloomberg report linked Mr Xi’s family to lucrative business holdings, but it did not mention offshore accounts, and it was not reported in China.

The Global Times did not mention the links between the communist elite and offshore accounts, but focused on the links between a close ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin and offshore funds.

The leaked documents name families or associates of seven current or former senior party figures, including Mr Xi’s brother-in-law Deng Jiagui, Li Xiaolin, daughter of former premier Li Peng, ex-standing committee of the politburo members Zhang Gaoli and Liu Yunshan and politburo leader Jia Qinglin.

The documents also list French architect Patrick Henri Devillers, who was linked to disgraced former party star Bo Xilai through business dealings with Mr Bo’s wife Bo Guagua. The focus among China-watchers is on Zhang Gaoli and Liu Yunshan, as they are said to be rivals of Mr Xi.