Fresh details have emerged about the business dealings of Zhou Bin, the son of former senior leader Zhou Yongkang, who is being investigated for corruption.
The son and his wife built an entertainment production company that may have enjoyed preferential treatment from the state broadcaster, insiders told the Sunday Morning Post.
Several official media outlets reported last week that Zhou Bin, 42, had built a business empire from dealings with the oil industry, riding on his father's coattails. As well as being one of the nation's most powerful leaders and its security tsar, Zhou Yongkang controlled its oil industry.
But the involvement of Zhou Bin and his Chinese-American wife Huang Wan , 43, in the film and television industry is not widely known. Both are in detention and also under investigation for corruption.
According to a source who spoke to the Post on condition of anonymity, the couple's interest in the field began over dinner with friends in 2005 at a restaurant near their Beijing home.
Zhou mentioned casually that his wife had been deeply moved by a true story on state broadcaster China Central Television about a lawyer who donated a kidney to his sick mother, said the source, who was at the dinner.
Huang saw the potential for a television drama series based on the story and how it could project a positive public message, this source said, adding: "Huang was very excited about her idea, and Zhou was supportive."
Two years later, a drama titled Warmth, based on the lawyer's story, aired during prime time on CCTV's flagship channel.
Records show the production company behind the 22-episode series was Boshang Culture and Communication, founded under the name of Zhan Minli, Huang's mother.
Huang was listed as "chief planner" of the drama, while Wu Bing, a tycoon who was detained in August over his business ties with the Zhou family, was credited as "general counsel".
When the elder Zhou retired in 2012, he was one of the most powerful men in China, a member of the Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee. The Post reported in August that top party leaders had agreed to open a corruption investigation into Zhou.
Dozens of 71-year-old Zhou's former subordinates have been investigated about their dealings, mostly in his former power base of Sichuan province, the domestic security apparatus and the oil industry. Those detained include Li Dongsheng , a former deputy propaganda minister who served as deputy public security minister.
It is not known if Zhou Yongkang or Li helped Zhou and Huang's entertainment business, but most of their productions were broadcast after the elder Zhou became minister of public security in 2002.
Five years later, when Zhou senior was the nation's security tsar, Boshang produced several series that praised the work of police and lawyers.
In May 2008, the premiere of patriotic prime-time CCTV drama Police Stories, produced by the same company in conjunction with the Ministry of Public Security, was attended by dozens of high-profile guests including Cai Anji, a former director of the political department of the Ministry of Public Security.
A person involved with film distribution at a state-owned television station said it was rare to see so many top officials at a premiere. "It was a propaganda piece to boast about the exploits of the police," the source said.
In 2011, Boshang changed its name and ownership was transferred to Chen Gang, a former business associate of the younger Zhou, and actress Mei Ting. Neither could be reached for comment.