Wen family rejects reports of wealth
THE FAMILY of China’s premier Wen Jiabao has rejected reports in the New York Times that Mr Wen’s relatives capitalised on his powerful position to amass secretly assets worth more than €2 billion.
“The so-called ‘hidden riches’ of Wen Jiabao’s family members in the New York Times’s report does not exist” (sic), ran the statement by Bai Tao of the Junhe law office and Wang Weidong of the Grandall law firm in Beijing.
Such a response is unprecedented, but the New York Times report came at a tense time in Beijing.
The Communist Party is due to hold its 18th congress on November 8th, during which it will begin a once-in-a-decade change of leadership in which Mr Wen is expected to hand over the premier role to Li Keqiang.
“We will continue to make clarifications regarding untrue reports by The New York Times, and reserve the right to hold it legally responsible,” the lawyers said.
The statement was broadcast on Hong Kong TV and published in the South China Morning Post and Sing Tao Daily.
Following Friday’s report, the New York Times’s websites in both English and Chinese were blocked in China, and searches for the New York Times as well as the names of Mr Wen’s children and wife were blocked on Weibo, China’s main Twitter-like microblog service.
The report said the family had accumulated most of its wealth since Mr Wen was appointed vice-premier in 1998.
The lawyers’ statement singled out the reference in the report to Mr Wen’s 90-year-old mother Yang Zhiyun, denying she had ever held a $120 million investment in Ping An Insurance.
“The mother of Wen Jiabao, except receiving salary/pension according to the regulation, has never had any income or property,” it said.
Mr Wen had never played any role in the business activities of his family members, the lawyers said, and had never allowed the business interests of his family to influence his policy-making.
“Other relatives of Wen Jiabao and the ‘friends’ and ‘colleagues’ of those relatives are responsible for all their own business activities,” the attorneys wrote.
The New York Times has been careful to avoid alleging that Mr Wen was involved personally in illegal activity.
It said there was no evidence he had personally intervened to help family members’ investments.
China is deeply sensitive about reports on its leaders, particularly when it comes to anything to do with their personal wealth or that of their families and associates.
Mr Wen is fiercely protective of his image as “Grandad Wen”, a paternal figure concerned with the best interests of the poor and dispossessed.
The timing of the report, so soon before he is due to step down, is likely to have caused serious dismay among the leadership.
A report by the Bloomberg news agency on the family of future leader Xi Jinping in June, which similarly made no direct connections between him and his relatives’ wealth, has seen Bloomberg blocked since.