Top China Leaders' Families Concealing Riches Overseas

Li Xiaolin, the daughter of former Chinese Premier Li Peng, attends a news conference. Li is one of the family members of former and current leaders listed in the report. /Reuters Li Xiaolin, the daughter of former Chinese Premier Li Peng, attends a news conference. Li is one of the family members of former and current leaders listed in the report. /Reuters

An investigation by a U.S.-based journalism group suggests the close relatives of China's top leaders, including President Xi Jinping, have set up offshore companies to hide their massive wealth.

The report, released Wednesday by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, was based on information from 2.5 million leaked documents showing the identities of the owners of overseas businesses and trusts.

President Xi's brother-in-law and former Premier Wen Jiabao's son were among those named. Close relatives of ex-President Hu Jintao, former Premier Li Peng and late leader Deng Xiaoping were also mentioned as having overseas holdings.

The New York Times and Bloomberg in 2012 published reports claiming that the families of Xi and Wen had accumulated massive fortunes. Beijing promptly blocked the news outlets' websites in China in response.

On Wednesday, Chinese authorities blocked access to the ICIJ website. There has been no other official response to the report.

The ICIJ report cautioned that there was no evidence of wrongdoing by Chinese leaders, and stressed that many may have not known about the financial activities of their families.

Nonetheless, such reports are a potential embarrassment to the Communist Party, which is in the midst of a highly publicized crackdown on rampant corruption within its ranks. Beijing fears widespread public frustration over the hidden, glamorous lives of Chinese leaders could spill over into social unrest.

Though no financial details were given in the ICIJ report, the investigation found that 90 percent of the mainland Chinese clients named set up offshore entities in the British Virgin Islands, some with the help of Western companies.

VOA News / Jan. 23, 2014 08:04 KST