Former premier Wen Jiabao has insisted on his innocence and integrity in a letter to a Hong Kong newspaper columnist in a bid to contain damage from claims that his extended family accumulated massive wealth during his tenure at the top.
"I have never been involved and would not get involved in one single deal of abusing my power for personal gain because no such gains whatsoever could shake my convictions," Wen said in the letter to Ng Hong-mun, a former deputy to the National People's Congress, on December 27.
Ng, a veteran columnist, revealed his communication with Wen in an article in Ming Pao yesterday.
The former premier remains under a cloud after The New York Times reported in October 2012 that his family and a web of relatives accumulated US$2.7 billion of hidden assets during his leadership.
Wen stepped down as a member of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party's Politburo in November 2012 and retired as premier in March last year.
"I want to walk the last journey in this world well. I came to this world with bare hands and I want to leave this world clean," Wen wrote in the letter.
Pressure has been mounting on the former premier to come clean as another former member of the Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang , is reportedly under investigation for corruption.
Rumours that an announcement about Zhou's downfall is imminent have been rife in recent weeks.
Dozens of his former aides and associates are under investigation for graft, including Jiang Jiemin , Zhou's former aide who last served as the director of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission.
Zhang Lifan, a Beijing-based political analyst, said Wen had good reason to be concerned amid a widening of the anti-graft campaign launched by the party's general secretary, President Xi Jinping , more than a year ago.
"The media allegations were not necessarily something that came from nothing, and they could be seized upon by Wen's opponents in a power struggle," Zhang said.
Wen's family has not followed through with a lawsuit against The New York Times as they had threatened soon after the report was published.
Zhang said that Wen's letter was another attempt to clear his name. "He's afraid of becoming a subject of discussion in history and associated with corruption, so he will continue to fight the allegations for the rest of his life," he said.
Ng said he befriended the former premier via his writings and that he was invited to Beijing in April in 2011 for a meeting and a banquet with Wen. He said Wen wrote him the letter in response to a newspaper article he wrote about Wen's book, Wen Jiabao on Education, published in October last year.
Ng did not say whether he had sought Wen's approval to reveal the letter.
He said in the Ming Pao article that the letter could have been prompted by the Times article, which Ng dismissed as part of a campaign against the reformist former premier.