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China's premier asks party for probe into family's 'hidden riches', paper reports

Sukree Sukplang / Reuters

China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, seen here in Laos on Sunday, has requested an inquiry into a New York Times report that his family amassed a fortune while he was in power.

HONG KONG -- China's ruling Communist Party has launched an internal inquiry into allegations made by The New York Times that the family of Premier Wen Jiabao accumulated at least $2.7 billion in "hidden riches", the South China Morning Post said on Monday. 

Wen himself asked for the inquiry in a letter to the Politburo Standing Committee -- the party's top decision-making body of which he is also a member -- in an apparent move to clear his name, the Hong Kong newspaper said, citing unnamed sources. 

Lawyers for the Wen family have rejected The New York Times' October 26 report, which said corporate and regulatory records show Wen's mother, siblings and children amassed most of their wealth since Wen became Vice Premier in 1998. Their holdings include construction, insurance and development companies, the paper reported.

NYT report: China leader Wen Jiabao's family has amassed billions in assets since '98

"The Standing Committee had agreed to his (Wen's) request," the South China Morning Post said, quoting the sources.

It cited some analysts as saying that Wen's request for a probe showed the premier was keen to use it as a chance to push forward a long-stalled "sunshine law", which would require a public declaration of family assets by senior leaders.

However, Professor He Weifang, a law expert at Peking University, told the Post that he doubted the party's senior leadership would go that far.

"Even if Wen wants to disclose his assets, I don't think other senior leaders, who may also have 'hidden wealth' of their own, will allow him to go ahead, considering the explosive social repercussions," he said.

Revelations of fortune held by China leader's family may hurt Communist Party image

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