China censors Namibia corruption case that may touch president's son
It has blocked any references to the investigation even though Hu Haifeng is not a suspect, underscoring the taboo against covering China’s 'princelings.'
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Though Hu Haifeng isn't accused of involvement in the case, it has proven so sensitive that Chinese censors scoured the Internet in China of all references to it.
The severity of the censorship underlines the strict taboos in play when it comes to China's taizidang, or "princelings." These are the children and spouses of the Communist Party's senior cadre, who often become prominent in business, politics, or the military. Their privileged background can stir public resentment – and Chinese leaders have to be on guard against scandals in their family that rivals can exploit.
Namibia investigates fraud, graft
In the Namibia case, anticorruption investigators allege that the company, Nuctech, defrauded the government over the supply of X-ray scanners, a deal backed by a $100 million Chinese loan.
A Nuctech representative in Namibia has been arrested, along with two other suspects, on accusations of diverting $13 million to a trading company in Namibia.
Since leaving the company, Hu Haifeng has been promoted to the position of party secretary of Tsinghua Holdings, the parent company of Nuctech. Namibia's prosecutor general Olivia Imalwa told the Monitor that no formal charges had been laid so far in the Nuctech case.
However, the commission's head last week told Reuters that he was still seeking to interview Mr. Hu and senior Nuctech management about the alleged fraud. None have been named as suspects in the case. Nuctech declined to comment.
Nuctech isn't the only Chinese company accused of graft in Namibia. A Chinese engineering company contracted to build a rail line is also being probed over alleged transfers to the same trading company, according to local media reports.
Censors protect prince of princelings
So far, the political blowback in China has been contained. That reflects both the case itself, which remains murky and unknown in China, and the power dynamics within the ruling Communist Party, says Bo Zhiyue, a senior fellow at the National University of Singapore who studies elite politics in China.
"People can talk about it... In the end, it all depends on the political balance between different groups. If Hu Jintao is dominant, I don't see any backlash coming," he says.
Princelings have flourished in China's capitalist economy and have been tapped to run large companies, including state-owned behemoths. Researchers have estimated that as many as 90 percent of companies in key sectors are in their hands.But that may overstate their reach, particularly as the economy matures and more private companies form, say analysts.
Princelings aren't unique to China. In most political systems, the offspring of senior leaders walk a gilded path. Still, the perception that a privileged few receive all the economic spoils remains potent in China. In 1989, it was a rallying cry for protesters in Tiananmen Square.