By Vibrant Dot Staff
It’s no news that China’s top ranking officials own huge amounts of offshore wealth. Still, a recent report revealing details of high-profile Chinese leaders’ family assets in Hong Kong caused a public outcry in China.
Xi Jinping and two other members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) most powerful body, have family members who own luxury homes worth more than $51 million in Hong Kong, according to the New York Times.
In 2009, Xi’s niece, Zhang Yannan, bought a $19.3 million villa in Repulse Bay, one of the most expensive neighbourhoods in Hong Kong.
Daughter of Wang Yang, the fourth ranked official of the party, is a former senior executive with the Deutsche Bank in Hong Kong. She purchased a $2 million residence in Hong Kong.
The most noteworthy is probably Li Qianxin, the elder daughter of the party’s third most powerful politician Li Zhanshu, who has quietly built herself an empire of wealth in Hong Kong.
Li Qianxin currently serves as the chairman of CCB International Asset Management, the investment banking arm of China Construction Bank. In 2013, she purchased a four-storey townhouse on Stanley Waterfront for $15 million through Century Joy Holdings, a company she had registered in Hong Kong and set up in the British Virgin Islands — a top tax haven.
Li Qianxin’s partner, Singaporean businessman Chua Hwa Por, owned a racehorse named Limitless in Hong Kong at the young age of 31. In 2017, Chua undertook a few major acquisitions, including acquiring Tai United Holdings, an investment holding company listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Through Tai United, Chua purchased a large stake in the prestigious Peninsula Hong Kong and the 79th floor of a landmark skyscraper.
When Chua’s acquisitions and his connections with Li Zhanshu were revealed to the public by Hong Kong’s Apple Daily, Chua soon resigned from the company.
Potential Targets of US Sanctions
The release of information of these officials’ family wealth in Hong Kong to the media is intended to hint at the US who they should be including in their sanction list, according to Wen Zhao – an Ontario-based China analyst.
Among the most powerful figures in the party, Li Zhanshu might be at higher risk for being sanctioned.
Li is in charge of the National People’s Congress, China’s rubber-stamp legislature, which passed a draft resolution of the highly controversial national security law for Hong Kong in May. The draconian new law has now been put into effect in Hong Kong, putting freedom of speech at risk.
Targeting Li Zhanshu, a close ally of Xi Jinping, the extensive exposure of his family wealth could be the result of political infighting playing out. Analysts believe that this was retaliation from Zeng Qinghong, the number two official in the Jiang Zemin faction. Jiang, the former head of the CCP, is often seen as Xi Jinping’s top enemy within the party.
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Zeng Qinghong was appointed the head of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs work team in 2003. Since he took power, China’s political elites and their assets have been continuously flowing into Hong Kong, which was believed to have caused skyrocketing property prices over the past 17 years.
Zeng is also often accused for driving Hong Kong into today’s chaos. When in office, he helped the CCP gain political control over Hong Kong by enticing Hong Kong’s rich and social elites with economic interests. The trade-offs ultimately, are the interests of the ordinary citizens.