China has denounced a report in The New York Times detailing the vast riches accumulated by Premier Wen Jiabao’s family, and today it blocked the newspaper’s English and Chinese language websites.
The report, weeks before Mr Wen is due to stand down, claims his extended family has acquired £1.68bn through a network of investments since he came to power in 2002.
“Some reports blacken China and have ulterior motives,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said. Asked about the decision to block the website, the spokesman said the internet in China was managed “in accordance with laws”.
Mr Wen, who will step down on 8 November at the 18th Communist Party Congress, has cultivated an image as a grandfatherly figure who has the feelings of ordinary Chinese close to his heart, and the report is a blow to this reputation.
“Many relatives of Wen Jiabao, including his son, daughter, younger brother and brother-in-law, have become extraordinarily wealthy during his leadership,” the paper said.
“A review of corporate and regulatory records indicates that the prime minister’s relatives – some of whom, including his wife, have a knack for aggressive deal making – have controlled assets worth at least $2.7bn,” it said.
The report outlined how business ventures linked to Mr Wen’s family were sometimes funded by state-owned enterprises, such as the phone company China Mobile, and from some of the richest people in Asia. The family also built up holdings in property companies, jewellery companies, banks and insurance companies.
The exposé follows a story by the financial news agency Bloomberg in June saying that the country’s anointed leader Xi Jinping owned companies worth £240m, and had an 18 per cent indirect stake in a rare-earths firm with £1.1bn and a £13m stake in a technology company.
The report does not make a link between Mr Wen and the policy decisions he has made over the years, but it does say that in some cases his relatives have tried to profit from opportunities made possible by those decisions.