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China Ex-premier Denies Link with Bugged Plane - 2002-02-17

The Chinese leader most closely linked with the Tiananmen Square massacre denied allegations that he was behind the bugging of President Jiang Zemin's jet plane.

Former Chinese premier Li Peng says he knows nothing about the bugging of the U.S.-made presidential plane. He was responding to reporters' questions while he was touring the island of Macau in southern China.

Mr. Li heads the National People's Congress and is widely seen as the man most responsible for the hard-line stance taken against students during the 1989 pro-democracy crackdown in Tiananmen Square.

Lately, he has been linked to corruption scandals in the State Power Bureau, which he used to head. His son and wife also are accused of bilking investors with bogus financial schemes.

On Friday, the conservative Washington Times newspaper quoted intelligence sources saying that President Jiang Zemin thinks Mr. Li had the plane bugged to monitor corruption investigations against his wife and children.

The presidential Boeing jet was apparently loaded with 27 bugs while it was refitted in the United States, even though it was under constant surveillance by Chinese officials.

Neither the United States nor China have confirmed the bugging, which was discovered last September. China's subdued reaction further clouds the issue of who may have planted the listening devices, by suggesting that Beijing does not necessarily blame the United States.