Businesswoman Liu Yingxia linked to Zhou Yongkang ousted from CPPCC

High profile businesswoman removed from Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference without explanation, linked to graft probe into former chief of internal security

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 February, 2014, 2:21pm
UPDATED : Friday, 21 February, 2014, 5:12pm

A businesswoman ranked as one of the 50 wealthiest in China has been ousted from a senior political organisation, with state media on Friday pointing to her links to a former high-ranking official facing graft allegations.

Liu Yingxia, who was listed as China’s 46th richest woman with assets of 4 billion yuan (HK$5 billion) by wealth publisher the Hurun Report last year, was removed as a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the Xinhua news agency reported late on Thursday.

The CPPCC is a debating chamber that is part of the Communist Party-controlled governmental structure and usually meets once a year in March. Xinhua described her as its “most pretty” member at a previous meeting.

The official news agency gave no reason for her banishment.

Liu was born in 1972 to a military family and served five years in the armed forces. She founded the Harbin Xiangying Group in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang at the age of 20 and the company now operates in the property, utility and road construction sectors, the Xiaoxiang Morning Herald reported on Friday.

A man who answered the office phone at the company on Thursday said Liu was out of the country for medical treatment for cancer and would return to China soon.

He said she had to leave the advisory body because she had been absent from many CPPCC meetings over the past year.

The CPPCC can strip a delegate of membership for various reasons, but in most cases it is when they are involved in criminal cases. In the past year, the CPPCC has stripped four other delegates of membership, who were all put under investigation for corruption.

She is allegedly married to the son of a high-ranking military officer, the Herald said.

Liu has also reportedly been an active philanthropist. Media articles said she donated over 12 million yuan to public welfare, including renting a military jet to transport medicine and other aid material to the earthquake-hit Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai province in 2010.

In 2012, the Harbin Xiangying Group invested in a 110-billion-yuan oil pipeline project with China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) and two other state-run organisations, the newspaper said.

Jiang Jiemin, CNPC’s then-chairman, attended the signing ceremony for the deal, it added, and Liu appeared at the ceremony as a representative of the private capital input.

It was reportedly the first time that a private firm had been allowed to take part in oil pipeline construction in China.

The ruling party’s internal graft watchdog announced in September that Jiang was under investigation for “suspected severe violation of discipline”, usually a euphemism for corruption.

Jiang, who is believed to be a close associate of China’s ex-chief of internal security Zhou Yongkang, held a minister-level position as head of the government body overseeing state-owned assets before his fall.

So far 21 officials at vice-ministerial level or above have fallen since the once-in-a-decade power transition that anointed Xi Jinping as the party’s general secretary.

Among the 21, at least six are believed to have been proteges of Zhou.

The New York Times in December cited “sources with elite political ties” as saying that Xi had given the go-ahead for a corruption investigation into Zhou himself.

It would be the first time in decades that such a high-ranking figure has been targeted in a formal inquiry, and would send shockwaves through China’s elite. Figures as senior as Zhou have generally been regarded as untouchable, even after retirement.