While Chinese Communist Party regulations call for top officials to disclose their wealth and that of their immediate family members, no law prohibits relatives of even the most senior officials from becoming deal-makers or major investors — a loophole that effectively allows them to trade on their family name.
The Times presented its findings to the Chinese government for comment. The foreign ministry declined to respond to questions about the investments, the premier or his relatives. Members of Wen’s family also declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment.
The review of the corporate and regulatory records, which covers 1992 to this year, found no holdings in Wen’s name. It was not possible to determine from the documents whether he recused himself from any decisions that might have affected his relatives’ holdings or whether they received preferential treatment on investments.
As premier, Wen has staked out a position as a populist and a reformer, someone whom the media has nicknamed “the People’s Premier” and “Grandpa Wen.”
While it is unclear how much the premier knows about his family’s wealth, US State Department documents released by WikiLeaks in 2010 included a cable that suggested Wen was aware of his relatives’ business dealings and unhappy about them.
“Wen is disgusted with his family’s activities but is either unable or unwilling to curtail them,” a Chinese-born executive working at a US company in Shanghai told US diplomats, according to the 2007 cable.
Wen’s supporters say he has not personally benefited from his extended family’s business dealings and may not even be knowledgeable about their extent.
Last March, during a nationally televised news conference, Wen said he had “never pursued personal gain” in public office.
“I have the courage to face the people and to face history,” he said. “There are people who will appreciate what I have done, but there are also people who will criticize me. Ultimately, history will have the final say.”