China’s wealthiest to take part in key political meetings

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015. Filed under: World News

Beijing, China | AFP |  – Five of the 10 wealthiest people in Communist-ruled China are due to take part in two major political meetings starting this week, government websites show, highlighting the influence of the country’s mega-rich.

Super-wealthy delegates to the “two sessions” are often the focus of public attention, with some criticised for showing off their influence or lobbying for favourable policies for their own industries.

The website of the National People’s Congress (parliament) shows that among the top 10 of publisher Hurun’s 2014 China rich list, third-place drinks tycoon Zong Qinghou, fifth-placed Pony Ma of Internet giant Tencent, and Lei Jun, the head of mobile phone upstart Xiaomi, who took tenth spot, are all delegates.

Solar energy tycoon Li Hejun – listed in joint third place last year but now described by Hurun as China’s richest man – and sixth-ranked Robin Li of Chinese search engine giant Baidu, are both in the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a parallel debating body, the latest membership list showed.

Both chambers are part of the Communist-controlled machinery of government.

Capitalists and landowners were persecuted in the early days of the Peoples’ Republic of China, with entrepreneurs only officially allowed to join the Communist Party during the 1990s leadership of Jiang Zemin under his “Three Represents” theory, which called for more open membership.

Membership of either the NPC or CPPCC is a sign of political approval in China, with fallen officials regularly expelled before they are  formally prosecuted.

Ling Jihua, who was once a protegé of former president Hu Jintao but is now under investigation for corruption after his son was killed in a Ferrari crash in Beijing, was removed as a vice chairman of the CPPCC National Committee and stripped of his membership on Saturday along with two other disgraced cadres, the official Xinhua news agency reported earlier.

The New Culture newspaper, based in Jilin province, reported that among China’s 100 richest people, 15 were NPC delegates and 21 CPPCC members.

The total fortune of the 36 was more than 1.2 trillion yuan ($191 billion), it added – more than the gross domestic product of Vietnam.

China’s unprecedented economic boom has raised hundreds of millions out of poverty but also created huge income disparities and rampant corruption, with only a relative few accruing vast wealth.

At previous NPC and CPPCC sessions the government has repeatedly vowed to help the poor and narrow the wealth gap.

This year’s CPPCC session starts on Tuesday and the NPC opens on Thursday.

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