Chinese PM disputes ‘hidden riches’ report

Chinese PM disputes ‘hidden riches’ report

Chinese PM disputes ‘hidden riches’ report

Chinese Premier Jiabao offers a toast at a reception in this file photo. Lawyers for Jiabao’s family deny New York Times’ reports on their ‘hidden riches.’ EPA photo

As China continues to reach toward the world’s economic leadership, the row between a U.S. paper and the Chinese premier’s family over alleged “hidden riches” is growing.

Lawyers representing Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao have rejected claims made by The New York Times on Oct. 26 that they have accumulated at least $2.7 billion in “hidden riches,” Hong Kong media reported yesterday. In a statement issued on Oct. 27 and carried by Hong Kong television as well as the South China Morning Post and Sing Tao Daily newspapers, Bai Tao of the Junhe Law Office and Wang Weidong of the Grandall Law Firm said the “hidden riches” of Wen’s family members in The New York Times’s report did not exist.

Sign of a legal action

The statement hinted at the possibility of future legal action, Reuters reported. “We will continue to make clarifications regarding untrue reports by The New York Times, and reserve the right to hold it legally responsible,” the statement said, according to the daily.

The New York Times reported on Oct. 26 that Wen’s mother, siblings and children had amassed the majority of their wealth since Wen was named vice premier in 1998.

The lawyers also denied that Wen had acted improperly or engaged in business activities himself, and said his relatives had not profited in any way from his tenure as premier and had no influence on Wen’s “formulation and execution of policies.” The statement said Wen’s mother had never received any income or property apart from her salary and pension. The Times’ report said the names of family members “have been hidden behind layers of partnerships and investment vehicles involving friends, work colleagues and business partners.” The New York Times report came at a sensitive time for Beijing, with China about to undergo a once-in-a-decade change of leadership in which Wen will step down as premier.