Guangzhou's anti-graft watchdog is under pressure to re-investigate a high-profile corruption case involving a former media executive, sources said.
Dai Yuqing, the former president of the official Guangzhou Daily, is standing trial accused of taking 2.5 million yuan in bribes over several years.
At his trial in Dongguan late last month, however, Dai retracted his confession, claiming it was made under duress. He said his former superior, Wang Xiaoling, who is now Guangzhou's anti-graft chief, was framing him for past disagreements.
The affair drew renewed attention following a regular press conference by the city's anti-graft watchdog on Monday that attracted unusual media questions and coverage about Dai's case.
Meanwhile, the influential business news outlet Caixin reported on Tuesday that Dai's wife, Yang Lanling, had contacted Communist Party discipline inspectors in December. She accused Wang of insider trading, among other violations.
Yang confirmed to the South China Morning Post yesterday she had filed the complaints and had been interviewed by Caixin.
"I'm safe, for now, but it's not the appropriate time to talk as our conversation is being bugged," Yang said.
A Guangzhou government official told the Post Dai's downfall was the result of retaliation. He had denied Wang a favour relating to the construction of the Guangzhou Daily office building, the official said.
"The complaints made by Dai's wife are very specific, especially regarding stock manipulation," the source said. The city discipline commission was under "heavy pressure" from the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the party's top anti-graft body, the source said.
Another government source said "a storm" was about to hit the Guangzhou agency.
"This shows Dai's case is no longer in the hands of Guangzhou's disciplinary commission; otherwise it would not be openly reported. The treatment of the story by local media has been authorised by a more senior government body, or else no one would dare steer it this way," the second official said.
At Monday's press conference, a spokesman was repeatedly asked about Dai's confession claim and said his case would be "dealt with fairly". The official said that was another telling sign. "This will play in Dai's favour and is bad news for Wang … indicating the entire disciplinary system is going to reopen Dai's case," the official said.
Before she moved to Guangzhou's anti-graft agency, Wang was the city's propaganda chief, and oversaw an acquisition and merger deal involving Guangzhou Daily in 2010. According to Caixin, people thought to be related to Wang were connected to the alleged insider trading that took place in the deal.
Sources said Wang had long been rumoured to be a niece of the wife of Zeng Qinghong, who was vice-president from 2003-2008. An independent source said Wang was "not exactly a niece of Zeng's wife" but a "remote relative".
Additional reporting by Keith Zhai and Staff Reporter