Wen Jiabao's family says claims of hidden fortune are 'lies'
Premier Wen Jiabao's family hit back last night at The New York Times for its explosive exposé about his family's wealth, rejecting several of the article's central claims as "untrue".
In an unusual step, two lawyers released a statement on behalf of Wen's family shortly 8before 11pm denying, among other things, that the premier's 90-year-old mother ever held a US$120 million investment in Ping An Insurance, as the paper had reported.
In fact, the lawyers said, Wen's mother, Yang Zhiyun, had "never had other income or property" except for her government salary and pension.
The claim was a critical element of the newspaper's article - published on its website on Friday morning - which estimated that Wen's extended family controlled a fortune of at least US$2.7 billion.
"The so-called 'hidden riches' of Wen Jiabao's family members in The New York Times' report does not exist," said the statement, first obtained by the 8Sunday Morning Post.
It is the first time a Chinese leader has issued a statement rebutting a foreign media report.
The lawyers, Bai Tao and Wang Weidong, said they would continue to "make clarifications regarding other untrue reports" by the newspaper and reserved the right to hold it "legally responsible".
The lawyers' statement also denied that the powerful premier had ever intervened on behalf of the business interests of family members. Nor had his family members engaged in illegal 8activities, it said.
"Some of Wen Jiabao's family members have not engaged in business activities," it said.
"Some were engaged in business activities, but they did not carry out any illegal business 8activity. They do not hold shares of any companies."