The head of top state-owned conglomerate China Resources Holdings vowed on Wednesday to pursue a libel lawsuit against a journalist working for the state-run news agency Xinhua, who has repeatedly accused him of corruption and money-laundering via social media.
Wang Wenzhi, a principal reporter at Xinhua's Economic Information Daily newspaper, published fresh allegations against China Resources Holdings chairman Song Lin in a letter posted to his microblog account on Tuesday.
Wang wrote that Hong Kong-based UBS banking executive Yang Lijuan, also known as Helen Yang, was once a "mistress" of Song's, and had helped him transfer and launder funds gained through corruption.
Wang's letter, posted to his Twitter-like Sina Weibo account, is addressed to the disciplinary body of the ruling Chinese Communist Party and claims that Yang had been given jobs at UBS on the strength of Song's influence after their affair began.
"Yang Lijuan then became an important channel for Song Lin to accept bribes and launder money," Wang wrote, without alleging that Yang had done this using her position at UBS, however.
"Song Lin kept Jiangsu-born Yang Lijuan as a mistress, and used his position to arrange for Yang to work in UBS' offices in Hong Kong and Shanghai," Wang's letter said.
"Yang Lijuan and her relatives now hold assets of more than one billion yuan (U.S. $160.7 million) overseas, with a large number of villas and other luxury properties in Suzhou, Changzhou, Shanghai, Hong Kong and other places, as well as huge deposits in domestic and foreign banks," Wang wrote.
In the early hours of Wednesday morning, Song responded with an online statement saying he had been "injured" by Wang's "malicious rumors."
"This has caused great hurt to me, to my family, and to the company," wrote Song. "I hope the relevant authorities will investigate."
"I personally will pursue the rumor-monger and their organization through the civil and criminal courts," Song said.
Response to allegations
Shares in state-owned China Resources' Hong Kong-listed subsidiary China Resources Power (CRP) lost five percent of their value on the Hong Kong stock market on Wednesday, following the claims.
However, Wang's tweet prompted a probe into Yang's business activities by UBS, the English-language South China Morning Post reported on Wednesday.
Hong Kong-based journalist Li Jianjun, who formerly worked at the official Shanxi Evening News and who has also made allegations of corruption around Song Lin's activities, said he believes Wang's allegations to be true.
"I am pretty sure that Wang Wenzhi must have lots more evidence in his possession that he hasn't made public," he said.
"It would be impossible to fake all of the details he is talking about, such as their bank accounts, work history, property and all those things."
Li dismissed Song's response to Wang's allegations as "insipid," and "no sort of a response at all."
He said the party's central commission for discipline inspection had begun to investigate Song after he made his initial allegations of corruption last year.
"They haven't yet come to a conclusion," he said. "But they froze all personnel appointments at China Resources, so they wouldn't approve any nominations [for top jobs]."
Top state-run companies in China must submit to a complex hiring approval process carried out by Communist Party committees within and above the organization.
He said President Xi Jinping's pledge to bring down corrupt high-ranking "tigers" and low-ranking "flies" had taken up all of the resources available to the party's graft-busting arm.
"This doesn't mean they're not investigating ... I think this report from Wang Wenzhi is very well timed, and will probably be very effective," Li said.
Zhu Xinxin, former editor for state-run Hebei provincial television, said many Xinhua journalists had very close ties with high-ranking officials, and that the timing of Wang's tweet is unlikely to be accidental.
"Many Xinhua reporters have a high-ranking official background," Zhu said. "So we can't rule out the possibility that there are political forces at work, directing [Wang] from behind the scenes."
"You could say that there are always political forces behind the scenes supporting Xinhua journalists, especially those with a fairly high profile," he said.
"They have pretty close relationships with the leadership."
China Resources Holdings has previously denied allegations of fraud in relation to the acquisition of a coal mine in Shanxi in 2010.
That report, which Wang published last July, also prompted a sharp fall in CRH's share price in Hong Kong.
However, Wang said he had plenty of evidence to support his claims, and had spent several months investigating the claim after "someone" gave him the relevant material.
President Xi Jinping has warned that the Communist Party must beat graft or lose power, sparking a nationwide clampdown on corruption.
But political analysts say that officials with friends in the right places are unlikely to be touched by the crackdown, and reports suggest many are liquidating their assets and making moves overseas.
Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wei Ling for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.