China Extends Controls on Wealth of Officials to Beijing, Beyond

  • Shanghai scheme extended to four places including Beijing
  • Latest step in government campaign to root out corruption

China will restrict private business activities of relatives of senior officials in Beijing and three other places, as the ruling Communist Party broadens its anti-corruption drive and expands a Shanghai pilot program.

Restrictions initially imposed on officials in the financial hub last May will be extended to the municipalities of Beijing and Chongqing as well as Guangdong province and the Xinjiang region, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing a decision on Monday at a meeting of the party’s leading group for reform chaired by President Xi Jinping.

The Shanghai program set strict regulations over the business activities of senior officials’ family members that previously received less scrutiny and allowed for various forms of corruption. The trial’s expansion also came in the aftermath of the leak of the Panama Papers, which earlier this month disclosed offshore holdings of family members of eight serving or retired senior Chinese leaders.

Regulating business activities of spouses and children of senior officials "is an important measure aimed at strictly managing the party," according to the statement. It did not provide much detail about what regulations would be applied in the four new locations but said they aimed at "setting clear boundaries" to control family members’ business operations.

Under the pilot program in Shanghai, the husbands and wives of ministerial and provincial-level officials are prohibited from starting companies or getting involved in any business operations. Children of local officials and their spouses cannot conduct business within the municipality, which carries the same status as a province.

The move is a further step in President Xi’s years-long drive to crack down on official corruption. Some of those cases revealed a pattern of officials amassing wealth through business dealings of family members.

The so-called Panama Papers, disclosed earlier this month by news organizations affiliated with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, also detailed the overseas holdings of about 140 Chinese politicians, public officials and family members including President Xi’s brother-in-law, and family members of Liu Yunshan, the country’s top propaganda official, and Zhang Gaoli, a vice premier.

China’s censors quickly removed any mention of Chinese links to the Panama Papers in social media and Internet sites accessible in China. Aside from one editorial assessing the leaks as likely to provide fodder to criticize non-Western nations, China’s state-run media has been largely silent and online searches related to the leaks have been blocked.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.