HONG KONG —
More relatives of current and former Chinese political leaders have been found to be Hong Kong residents, according to the latest batch of leaked Panama Papers.
According to Ming Pao, a Hong Kong newspaper, among the "Hong Kong princelings" are Li Xiaoping, the niece of former top Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, and Li’s husband, Wallace Yu Yiping.
Both of them own offshore companies — Water Enterprise Ltd. and Tibet 5100 Water Resources Ltd. — that are incorporated in the British Virgin Islands via the couple's Hong Kong identity card numbers.
The leaked Panama Papers showed Yu’s Hong Kong identity card was issued as early as November 1994, and he held permanent residency in Hong Kong. Yu was born on the mainland.
According to the Hong Kong Companies Registry records, Yu and Li both hold Canadian passports.
It was previously reported that relatives of 10 top Chinese political figures held offshore companies, as revealed by the Panama Papers. Of the 10, at least seven are either Hong Kong residents, have bought properties in Hong Kong or have business ties to the city.
Named Communist Party leaders were Chinese President Xi Jinping, Zhang Gaoli, Liu Yunshan, Li Peng, Jia Qinglin, Zeng Qinghong, Tian Jiyun, Hu Yaobang, Mao Zedong and Bo Xilai.
In the latest revelations, Zhang Gaoli’s daughter was also found to be a Hong Kong identity card holder. She owns a house at Palm Springs in Yuen Long — part of Hong Kong — with her Hong Kong husband, Lee Shing-put.
A question of fairness
It is not illegal for Chinese citizens to open offshore accounts or own offshore companies, but the Communist Party bans party officials and family members from profiting from their positions.
Joseph Cheng, a retired political science professor at the City University of Hong Kong, told VOA on Wednesday that these reports provided no evidence that these Chinese leaders' relatives were involved in corruption, but the depth and breadth of their business activities exceed what most Chinese citizens would have imagined.
"What is more important is [that] a large part of China’s top leadership have transferred their families, children and their wealth overseas," Cheng said. "It is not only a matter of corruption, but also a matter of whether they have confidence in the regime."
Although Chinese authorities have blocked almost all news regarding the Panama Papers — especially news about the offshore companies owned by the children of Chinese leaders — word is likely to get around.
"The news will soon spread. The main effect will be that people will question the fairness and effectiveness of the government’s campaign against corruption," Cheng said. "Secondly, this kind of news will cause more internal fights among China’s high-level leadership."
Recent reports by Hong Kong media do not mention President Xi’s brother-in-law Deng Jiagui, who was also revealed to have registered offshore companies. Some analysts said Deng went into business long before Xi entered the party leadership.
This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Mandarin service.