China has denied a recent report in the New York Times that the family of outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao holds hidden assets worth at least U.S.$2.7 billion, and Chinese political commentators have largely been reluctant to gainsay the prevailing view of Wen as an upstanding and incorruptible champion of the people. But writer Yu Jie, who has published a book titled Wen Jiabao: China's Greatest Actor, says he is supportive of the allegations, some of which he had already made himself:
Some of the allegations made in the New York Times article were already made by me in my book Wen Jiabao: China's Greatest Actor, which was published in Hong Kong three years ago. For example, the jewelry owned by his wife that was worth millions of yuan; and the shares held by Wen Jiabao's son. But there are some differences; for example, the revelations by the New York Times that Wen's mother holds U.S. $120 million in assets. That part isn't in my book, but I do touch on Wen Jiabao's younger brother, Wen Jiahong, who is a significant shareholder in China's biggest property developer, Evergrande Real Estate. He also served as a director of Evergrande for a very long period of time. So I am in strong agreement with the New York Times' reporting on this matter. I think the New York Times has carried out an exhaustive piece of investigative research, of the kind that it's very hard for the individual to do alone. This has revealed the corruption at every level of Chinese officialdom. It is like a huge dyeing vat in which there are no clean officials.
[The fact that many people have spoken out in support of Wen] is a perfect expression of the fact that China, for the past 2,000 years, has been in the grip of an authoritarian system of government which has created a very strong cultural system. This means that people don't regard themselves as modern citizens, so they don't stand up for their freedom of expression and their right to criticize officials. They place all their hope for China's progress and reform onto the shoulders of officials. They have a sort of "clean government" complex [a deeply entrenched belief that there is such a thing.] This isn't only found inside mainland China. Overseas Chinese scholars are the same.
First we must look at whether these reports are correct; whether they are true. I think that ... if they really do sue the New York Times, then this will be a good thing. That way, we can get a legal decision at the highest level. Also, I think that Wen Jiabao himself should come forward and make a full disclosure, and not his so-called family [who have issued statements via lawyers in Beijing], because we can't see clearly who these so-called "family members" are.
I also hope that China will have a breakthrough in press freedom, so that China's own media can investigate and report on this matter. So that it doesn't have to come to China through the media overseas. That's really an abnormal situation.
I was subjected to illegal house arrest and kidnapping for criticizing Wen Jiabao. I was tortured and mistreated, and eventually forced into leaving my own country. I am fairly sure that Wen Jiabao would have known how I was being treated. So I hope he will come out openly ... and punish the secret police who have trampled the law. Only by making a public apology to me can he prove himself to be a genuine reformer.
Reported by Jia Yuan for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.