Panama Papers: Family of China’s prominent leaders exposed

Edited by Nelly T.

Reports and documents published Wednesday by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) saw family members of at least eight of China’s current and previous top-ranking political leaders appearing in the Panama Papers as shareholders of secretive offshore companies.

The ICIJ, who are just one of the publications charged with reviewing the 11 million documents leaked from the Panamanian law firm, had previously reported that the documents show offshore companies were controlled by Deng Jiagui, brother-in-law to President Xi Jinping, the head of China’s government and its Communist Party.

Businesswoman and daughter of Li Peng (premier of China, 1987-1998) was also mention in the data, Li Xiaolin was accused of ownership of offshore companies.

Two members of China’s Politburo Standing Committee relations, the seven-person body that heads the government, as well as of relatives of four more former Chinese leaders and Politburo Standing Committee members had additional information reported on their offshore holdings by the ICIJ on Wednesday.

Two more names were also recently released including son-in-law of Zhang Gaoli, the current vice premier and daughter-in-law of Liu Yunshan, China’s current propaganda chief. The ICIJ also include Jasmine Li Zidan, granddaughter of Jia Qinglin who served on the Standing Committee until 2012. While still a freshman at Standford University Jasmine Li Zidan took ownership of an offshore company named Harvest Sun Trading in 2010 for $1, documents show.

The ICIJ reported two similarly named companies in Beijing were set up using Harvest Sun and another British Virgin Islands company later by Li Zidan.

According to the ICIJ other names include Zeng Qinghong brother to China’s former vice president; the son of Hu Yaobang, who led the Communist Party 1982-1987 before being purged; and China leader (from 1949-1976) Mao Zedong’s son.

The disclosures don’t appear to contain any evidence of illegal activity by Chinese leaders or their relatives. However, they are still sensitive in China, where the Xi’s government has been leading a long-running campaign to crack down on official corruption and discussion of the wealth of party leaders are strictly censored.

ICIJ’s call for a comment from China’s Foreign Ministry went unheeded. On Tuesday Hong Lei, the ministry spokesperson called the allegations “groundless” and said he had no comment. Censorship instructions issued by the government to the media and leaked to the website China Digital Times ordered Chines websites to find and delete articles about the Panama Papers, adding that any “material from foreign media attacking China” would “be dealt with severely.”