Li Xiaolin, the daughter of former Chinese premier Li Peng, surprised her critics this week after she was snapped carrying a cloth bag to a session at the annual convention of a national political consultancy body in Beijing.
She now heads China Power International Development (CPI), and is known for her expensive tastes and her luxury attire. CPI is a Hong Kong-listed subsidiary of the State owned giant China Power Investment Corporation.
Yet a photo published by Chinese newspapers on Tuesday showed that Li, dressed in a light coloured suit, was carrying a nondescript cloth bag into a session.
In 2012, Li was photographed wearing a 14,000-yuan salmon-pink trouser suit designed by Emilio Pucci and a Chanel pearl necklace worth 8,000 yuan to the annual CPPCC conference in Beijing. It triggered a heated discussion on how political power intersects with personal wealth in the country, and many have speculated that she has benefited hugely from her father’s influence.
Li was first elected a delegate to the national advisory body in 2008, and is now serving her second 5-year term.
In 2013, Li showed up at the Boao forum in Hainan wearing a dress by designer Azzedine Alaïa, a label that has also been worn by high-profile figures including Michelle Obama and Lady Gaga.
Li has has been widely criticised for showing off her lavish lifestyle. She came under fire again in 2013 after confessing in an interview that she regretted only having one child and that she was from “a generation of giving".
On Tuesday, photos of a cloth-bag-carrying Li received mixed reactions online. Some net users said they were glad that Li was “finally being low-key,” others said they thought she was just “putting on a show”.
Others speculated she was trying to operate under the radar during a sensitive time when President Xi Jinping is waging a fully-fledged campaign against corruption.
"It's for her own good to stay low-key now," one wrote.
Li's name appeared in a January report on tax havens written by investigative journalists that revealed the secret offshore holdings of close relatives of China's current or former leaders. The report, published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), showed she was the director of Tianwo Holdings and Tianwo Development, both set up in the British Virgin Islands, a well-known tax haven, in 2005.
The flow of capital into the tax haven is said to have had an impact on the Chinese economy.
Li did not respond to the ICIJ's repeated requests for comment, according to the report.
The name Li Xaolin remained a censored keyword on Weibo on Tuesday.