China began a probe of Premier Wen Jiabao’s wealth at his request after the New York Times reported his relatives had amassed at least $2.7 billion of assets, the South China Morning Post reported today.
The premier called for a formal inquiry in a letter to the Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee, of which he is a member, the newspaper said, citing unidentified people. Conservative party elders who dislike Wen’s more liberal stance have called on him to explain the New York Times’s reporting, the sources said, according to the South China Morning Post.
The Times story on Wen’s family wealth cited corporate and regulatory records and unidentified people familiar with the family’s investments. Among the assets was a holding in the name of Wen’s mother, Yang Zhiyun, in Ping An Insurance Co. that was valued at $120 million in 2007, the Times reported.
A faxed request for comment to the Chinese foreign ministry’s news department wasn’t immediately answered. On Oct. 29, the foreign ministry confirmed Wen’s family had lawyers issue a statement responding to the Times story and suggested the report was a bid to provoke instability. The South China Morning Post had reported that lawyers representing Wen’s family issued a statement disputing some of the Times story.