Family members of at least eight of China’s current and former top-ranking political leaders appear in the Panama Papers as owners or shareholders of secretive offshore companies, according to reporting and documents published Wednesday by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
The ICIJ is one of the publications that is reviewing the 11 million documents leaked from a Panamanian law firm that helped clients set up anonymous companies. The Washington Post has not reviewed the documents and cannot confirm their contents.
The ICIJ had previously reported that the documents show offshore companies were controlled by Deng Jiagui, the brother-in-law of Chinese President Xi Jinping, the head of China’s government and its Communist Party. It had also reported that the documents mentioned ownership of offshore companies by Li Xiaolin, the businesswoman and daughter of Li Peng, the premier of China between 1987 and 1998.
On Wednesday, the ICIJ reported additional information on the offshore holdings of relatives of two members of China’s Politburo Standing Committee, the seven-person body that heads the government, as well as of relatives of four more former Chinese leaders and Politburo Standing Committee members.
The newly released names include the daughter-in-law of Liu Yunshan, China’s current propaganda chief, and the son-in-law of Zhang Gaoli, the current vice premier.
They also include the granddaughter of Jia Qinglin, who served on the Standing Committee until 2012. Jia’s granddaughter Jasmine Li Zidan took ownership of an offshore company named Harvest Sun Trading in 2010 for $1, documents show. At the time, Li Zidan was a freshman at Stanford University, the ICIJ reported.
Later, both Harvest Sun and another British Virgin Islands company owned by Li Zidan were used to set up two similarly named companies in Beijing, the ICIJ reported. The offshore holdings structure prevented the family’s name from showing up on the public registration documents for the Beijing companies, the ICIJ says.
Other names in the Mossack Fonseca documents include the brother of China’s former vice president Zeng Qinghong; the son of Hu Yaobang, who led the Communist Party from 1982 to 1987 before being purged; and the grandson-in-law of Mao Zedong, China’s leader from 1949 to 1976, according to the ICIJ.
Mossack Fonseca’s documents also show that other wealthy and famous Chinese control offshore firms, including movie star Jackie Chan, shopping-mall chain founder Shen Guojun, and Kelly Zong Fuli, the daughter of soft-drink company founder Zong Qinghou, one of China’s richest men.
The disclosures don’t appear to contain any evidence of illegal activity by Chinese leaders or their relatives. But they are still sensitive in China, where Xi’s government has been leading a long-running campaign to crack down on official corruption and discussions of the wealth of party leaders are strictly censored.
China’s Foreign Ministry did not respond to the ICIJ’s request for comment. The ministry’s spokesman, Hong Lei, called the accusations “groundless” and said he had no comment Tuesday. Censorship instructions, issued by the government to the media and leaked to the website China Digital Times, ordered Chinese websites to find and delete articles about the Panama Papers, adding that any "material from foreign media attacking China" would "be dealt with severely."
Past reporting has disclosed the offshore ties of relatives of China’s top leaders. Bloomberg News first reported on Deng Jiagui’s ties to offshore companies in 2012, while in 2014 the ICIJ reported on a leaked cache of documents that revealed ties to offshore companies by Deng, Li Xiaolin and others.
Mossack Fonseca set up an office in Hong Kong in August 1989 and currently has offices in eight Chinese cities, according to its website.