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Posted on Jan 24, 2002

Li Peng’s wife denies corruption

The wife of Li Peng, Beijing’s second in command and chairman of the Chinese parliament, has recently been forced to deny press allegations that she was involved in share trading and dubious business deals, using her influence with an important Chinese company.

In an interview with the Chinese mainland newspaper, Zhonghua Yingcai, Zhu Lin said she did not own a penny in stocks and had never worked as general manager or president of any company.

Ms Zhu said she could never be a competent share trader, as she had never been any good at figures.

“Since primary school, I did not like maths and did not have the time or patience. So I did not like lotteries or shares. I have never had a single share or illegal bond. I did not oppose others trading shares but I really do not have this ability myself,” she said.

‘Wicked hurtful rumours’

Ms Zhu said she held senior posts at the North China Power Management Bureau and at the Beijing office of the Dayawan Nuclear Power Station in Guangdong, but added:

“I have never worked as general manager or chairman of the board of directors of any company either at present or in the past.”

Asked about the scandal surrounding her, Ms Zhu said: “I know these wicked and hurtful rumours. There will always be dark and evil people.

“I do not care. I use righteousness to overcome evil,” she added.

‘Bad reputation’

Ms Zhu often appears at official functions and meetings with her husband, who was premier for 10 years until 1998.

Like wives of other leaders she rarely speaks in the press.

According to the Hong Kong-based newspaper, the South China Morning Post, Zhu Lin “has a bad reputation” in her country, where she is believed “to have abused her power to make money in real estate and stock trading”.

“One story suggests she never wears the same outfit twice and buys or is given new clothes on foreign visits,” the paper said.

Both the Hong Kong and the Taiwanese press speculated that Ms Zhu had been forced to give the interview in an attempt to combat such rumours.

Political defence

But others suggested that this could have been an attempt to counter a political attack.

The South China Morning Post said the interview could suggest “a more serious attack within the Communist Party against Ms Zhu and her husband ahead of a party plenum where their opponents want Mr Li to resign as member of the Standing Committee of the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] Central Committee”.

But some observers believe Li Peng may stand down at the 16th Congress due to take place this October.

China’s top leadership is expected to be reshuffled at the congress and some analysts believe the current flurry of critical press reports may suggest officials are jostling for position ahead of the meeting.

‘Socialist princeling’

The latest allegations against Ms Zhu appeared in an article published last November by the mainland Chinese financial newspaper, Caijing, an economic publication with a circulation of about five million.

The article reportedly criticised not just Li Peng’s wife but also his eldest son, Li Xiaopeng, who is president and chairman of the Huaneng Power International, a top energy company.

The company, which is listed on the Chinese, Hong Kong and US stock markets, has five large thermal power plants and its power output is said to have increased by 26.5% in 2001.

Huaneng’s “might remains unmatched”, the Hong Kong newspaper, Ching Chi Jih Pao said.

According to the South China Morning Post, “there is an underlying disgust among party members at the way socialist princelings are taking the leading role in the privatization of state assets.”

According to Ching Chi Jih Pao, the article in Caijing “caused a great uproar”.

Both Ching Chi Jih Pao and the South China Morning Post reported that the author of the report, Ma Hailin, had been arrested.

“Copies of the Caijing’s November edition were seized before vendors could sell them,” the South China Morning Post said.

However, a Caijing journalist told the paper that his publication had run a letter saying the article “was in part baseless and misleading”.