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Xi Jinping’s top graft-buster back in the public eye again for tribute to father-in-law

Normally low-profile Wang Qishan makes a public appearance to pay homage to late vice-premier Yao Yilin

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 September, 2017, 3:41pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 September, 2017, 10:25pm

Low-profile Communist Party anti-graft chief Wang Qishan has appeared in public for a second day in a row after roughly a month out of the state media spotlight.

Wang attended a seminar in Beijing honouring his late father-in-law and former vice-premier Yao Yilin, China Central Television reported on Wednesday night.

The appearance came a day after CCTV showed footage of Wang on a provincial visit and at a discipline inspection meeting as head of the party’s anti-graft watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

Wang’s state media appearances are closely watched for signs of an answer to one of the biggest questions ahead of next month’s 19th party congress: whether Wang will stay on as a member of the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, the pinnacle of power in China.

Premier Li Keqiang also attended the Yao tribute but President Xi Jinping was absent. It was not clear whether Xi returned to Beijing after the three-day BRICS meeting in Xiamen, which ended on Tuesday.

Xi was the key speaker at last year’s celebration of the centenary of the birth of admiral Liu Huaqing, one of China’s most powerful military officers who served at roughly the same time as Yao.

Wang appeared at the tribute as a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, as did his counterparts Liu Yunshan and Zhang Gaoli. Another close aide to Xi, Li Zhanshu, head of the General Office of the party’s Central Committee and one of the 25-strong Politburo, hosted the event.

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Observers are keen to see if Wang, 69, will defy the unofficial retirement age of 70 and stay on on the Standing Committee for another five years after a leadership shake-up at the congress.

The top graft-buster is seen as Xi’s close ally and rose from a humble background up the party ranks, a rise often attributed in part to his princeling marriage to Yao’s daughter Yao Mingshan.

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Yao Yilin was born in Hong Kong and died aged 77 in 1994. He was vice-premier in 1978 to then-premier Li Peng, helping to launch the country’s market-oriented reforms.

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It was not clear if Yao Qing, Wang’s wife’s nephew, attended the seminar in Beijing.

Fugitive businessman Guo Wengui has accused Yao Qing of money laundering and of being a secret shareholder of Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, owner of Hainan Airlines.

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A man identified as a member of the Yao family was shown in the CCTV footage of the seminar. His features resembled those of a man in passport photo previously identified by Guo as Yao Qing.

In July, state media Xinhua and Global Times published an interview with a Shanghai businessman named Yao Qing, dismissing Guo’s claims of corrupt links between Wang and Yao Qing. The interview also came with a photo of the man resembling the one in the passport picture.