Two rising Chinese political stars, who may join the top leadership next week, said on Friday they believe officials will eventually have to declare their assets publicly, as the Communist Party battles persistent corruption.
The comments by Wang Yang, party boss of Guangdong province, and Yu Zhengsheng, Shanghai's Communist chief, come at a time of heightened sensitivity about the wealth of China's top leaders on the eve of a once-a-decade leadership transition.
The New York Times reported last month that the family of Premier Wen Jiabao, who has been in office for a decade, had accumulated at least $2.7 billion in "hidden riches" - a report the government labelled a smear. Official ostentation has become a hot-button issue on the Chinese Internet. One official was recently sacked and put under investigation after web surfers compiled pictures of him wearing several different luxury watches. Wang said Guangdong was "exploring" ways to compel officials of the fast-developing province to declare their assets.
"I believe that we Chinese officials will make public our assets step by step in line with central provisions," said Wang, who some political observers believe is a contender for a spot in the elite Politburo Standing Committee next week. Yu, also widely believed to be in the running for a position on the Standing Committee, which decides China's policy direction and currently has nine members, said Shanghai had a city-level system for asset declaration internally.
"This isn't enough," he said, adding that the city's leadership had already set the wheels in motion to move toward a system of public declaration. Neither of them referred to the report on Wen's family, public discussion of which the government has tried to block. Outgoing party chief Hu Jintao said in a report on Thursday at the start of the 18th Party Congress, which will usher in the new leadership, that officials should "exercise strict self-discipline... and supervision over their family and staff".
Yu said he had forbidden his child against having anything to do with Shanghai while he was in office there. "I said one thing: You are not allowed deal with Shanghai companies or anything inside the range of things that I oversee. You are not to have contact with Shanghai officials," he said during a meeting of the Shanghai delegation to the congress. Asked by a Hong Kong journalist if he would lead the way in public asset declaration, Yu, who has presided over China's richest city since 2007, replied: "As long as the centre makes such a decision, I could do it easily because I don't have that many assets".