, HONG KONG, Nov 5 – China’s ruling Communist Party has launched an inquiry into the alleged wealth of Premier Wen Jiabao’s family at his own request, a report said Monday.
Citing sources, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post (SCMP) said Wen had written to the Politburo Standing Committee – the country’s highest policy-making body, of which he is a member – formally asking for the probe.
It comes after the New York Times reported that Wen’s family had accumulated at least $2.7 billion in assets in various sectors, according to an analysis of company and regulatory filings from 1992-2012.
The report on Wen’s letter and the inquiry is unusual. The communist party normally ensures that its internal affairs are covered by a strict veil of secrecy.
The financial allegations are particularly embarrassing for Wen, who is expected to step down as premier next March, as he is the standard-bearer of reformers in the party and has campaigned against rampant corruption.
The New York Times report came days before the start of a party congress where a once-in-a-decade leadership transition will begin, and the run-up to the meeting has seen months of factional manoeuvring.
The SCMP quoted its sources as saying conservative party elders “known to dislike the premier’s more liberal stance” had “urged him to provide detailed explanations on all the major allegations” in the US newspaper’s report.
Among other details, the New York Times said Wen’s 90-year-old mother owned a stake valued at $120 million in 2007 in China’s Ping An insurance giant.
Last week the SCMP quoted lawyers for Wen’s relatives denying the claim.
“The so-called ‘hidden riches’ of Wen Jiabao’s family members in The New York Times’ report does not exist,” it quoted a statement from them as saying.
“The so-called ‘hidden riches’ of Wen Jiabao’s family members in The New York Times’ report does not exist”
The lawyers said they would continue to “make clarifications regarding other untrue reports” by the newspaper and reserved the right to hold it “legally responsible”.
They said Wen “has never played any role in the business activities of his family members” and had not allowed those activities to influence his policies.
The NYT report found no indication Wen had intervened on behalf of family members and said he himself did not appear to have accumulated assets. It did not suggest that any of the family’s business activities were illegal.
The NYT has said on its website that it stands by the story.