While the Chinese elite, especially the top brass of China’s Communist Party leadership, have long been suspected of parking their money and assets in Hong Kong, insulating their financial gains from the mainland, and therefore, out of view of the Chinese people, an investigation by the New York Times has confirmed just that.
In a recently published report in the NYT, titled, ‘Luxury Homes Tie Chinese Communist Elite to Hong Kong’s Fate’, it has been claimed that relatives of top bosses of the CCP have amassed huge wealth using Hong Kong’s financial landscape of international business for their own gains. Close relatives of three of the top four in the CCP have over $51 million-worth investments in luxury real estate in Hong Kong.
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s close relatives have come under the lens—not the first time—for their assets in Hong Kong and business dealings with relatives of other top officials of the CCP, who own huge assets and investments in Hong Kong.
Observers believe that China’s new security law imposed with an iron hand in Hong Kong has more to it than just political dimensions. The law is inextricably tied, say experts, with the financial dealings and assets of the “Communist Nobility”.
“The law could protect the families of the party’s leaders by stopping the protests that wreaked havoc on the economy or leave them vulnerable by driving down business confidence in the territory,” the NYT report opined.
Conversely, the global sanctions regime led by the US that has started rolling against China against the new security law that seriously undermines fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong also threatens the business interests of these relatives of the CCP leadership as HK might lose its global financial status.
Therefore, Chinese government’s vehement retorts to these sanctions—often bordering on outbursts than diplomatic exhortations—could have a personal angle too. The NYT report quoted Willy Lam, an adjunct professor of China studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong: “Members of the Red aristocracy in China, including the princelings, have made huge investments in Hong Kong. If Hong Kong suddenly loses its financial status, they cannot park their money here.
Meanwhile, the NYT investigation revealed that Li Qianxin, the elder daughter of the CCP’s number 3 leader Li Zhanshu has “deep financial roots” in Hong Kong and owns a four-storey house by the beach worth $15 million. Incidentally, Zhanshu is the chairperson of the rubber-stamp parliament of China and was instrumental in swiftly passing the new security law, equipping mainland to gag any pro-democracy anti-Beijing dissent in HK.
Recently, Hong Kong media tycoon and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai, who owns Apple Daily, was arrested unceremoniously and the papers office rifled through by the HK police under the new security law; had back in 2017 published, among others, an article on the rapid rise on the Hing Kong financial scene of Li Qianxin’s partner Chua Hwa Por (Cai Huabo).
According to the NYT, “Qi Qiaoqiao, the older sister of Xi Jinping, China’s president, started buying properties in Hong Kong as early as 1991, Hong Kong property records show. Her daughter, Zhang Yannan, owns a villa in Repulse Bay, which she bought in 2009 for $19.3 million, and at least five other apartments, the city’s property and company records indicate.”
Moreover, one of the authors of the NYT investigation, Mike Forsythe, linked the financial dealings of Jinping’s relatives with Li Qianxin’s. In a series of tweets in the wake of the article, Forsythe claimed, Li Qianxin, Zhangshu’s daughter, went on to head China Construction Bank International at 37, an investment banking arm of one of the world’s biggest banks, which was state-owned.
Ironically, in 2013, as per another article by NYT from 2017, Jinping’s relatives ended their business ties with CCBI. Their stakes were bought by another company Kanghai. After ascending to power, Jinping had led a crusade, uncharacteristic of CCP till then, against corruption by Zhou Yongkang, CCP leader and China’s top security bosses!
The NYT investigation, apart from the Li-Qi nexus also exposed that Wang Xisha, daughter of Wang Yang who hogs the number 4 slot in the CCP bought a $2 million home in Hong Kong in 2010. The publication cited the city property records for the purpose.
Script:Siddhartha Rai, Consulting Editor (Digital), Prasar Bharati