Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who will step down as part of a transition of power on November 8, has accumulated vast wealth during his time in power, but reports of his $2.7 billion fortune have been blocked in China.
A New York Times article describing how the Prime Minister's family, including his wife, mother, siblings and children amassed their wealth prompted the powers-that-be in the Communist state to block the newspaper's website both in English and Chinese.
Wen’s wife, Zhang Beili, is a leading authority on jewellery and she used to run Beijing Diamonds, a state-run firm that was privatized, reports the paper. She later set up Sino-Diamond, a company financed by the state-owned China Mineral and Gem Corporation (of which she was the boss).
A geologist with an expertise in gemstones, Zhang is mostly unknown amongsts ordinary Chinese, reports Times of India:
She rarely travels with the prime minister or appears with him, and there are few official photographs of the couple together. And while people who have worked with her say she has a taste for jade and fine diamonds, they say she usually dresses modestly, does not exude glamour and prefers to wield influence behind the scenes, much like the relatives of other senior leaders.
But the State Department documents released by WikiLeaks suggested that Wen had once considered divorcing Zhang because she had “exploited their relationship in her diamond trades.”
“Taiwanese television reported in 2007 that Zhang had bought a pair of jade earrings worth about $275,000 at a Beijing trade show, though the source — a Taiwanese trader — later backed off the claim and Chinese government censors moved swiftly to block coverage of the subject in China, according to news reports at the time,” says Times of India.
This is not the first time the Chinese government has blocked a news website.
In June, Bloomberg News was not available in China after an investigative report into the finances of the family of president in waiting Xi Jinping was published.
Image: Wen Jiabao's family picture — (From left), Wen Yunsong, Wen Jiabao's wife Zhang Beili, son Wen Jiabao and daughter Wen Ruchun. Courtesy of ChinaToday.com