Panama Papers scandal has big impact on ordinary Chinese says Brock expert

Chinese president Xi Jinping’s concerted campaign to stamp out official corruption in his country has suddenly taken a rather embarrassing twist.Some of Xi’s family members and other senior Chinese government officials such as Zhang Gaoli and Liu Yunshan of China’s elite Standing Committee are now in the so-called “Panama Papers” spotlight.“When you have a situation of a nation with 80 to 100 million people concerned about just getting enough to eat and having enough fuel and clothing to keep their bodies warm, the revelations that billions of dollars have been transferred out of the Chinese system to the benefit of certain individuals is a very serious matter,” says Brock University China expert Charles Burton.The Chinese officials are among 140 politicians and public officials worldwide implicated in schemes that essentially enable them to avoid paying taxes on their wealth and, in some cases, launder money and dodge sanctions.Reports of some 11.5 million leaked documents detailing information about more than 214,000 offshore entities listed by the Panama company Mossack Fonseca began to emerge this week.The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has found that “eight current and former members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the country’s top decision makers, have relatives with secret offshore companies.”“It’s not simply tax evasion; it goes beyond that to the transfer of state assets into private hands offshore,” says Burton.The Chinese government is going to great lengths to censor Panama Papers coverage in social and mainstream media regarding Chinese involvement, says Burton, choosing to focus on other world leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin.“There have been so many posting on Chinese social media that have been removed, but people have seen them before they’ve been removed,” says Burton, “and there’s been a lot of chat back and forth.“I would think that, in general, people would be aware of the fact that there are Chinese involved. People in Hong Kong and Taiwan are certainly sensitized to this because they’ve been reporting it extensively, so the news is out in the Chinese language,” he says.Burton says China’s the “large gap” between rich and poor and “large amounts of unexplained wealth on the part of the Chinese leadership” are sensitive issues with the population “as the Chinese economy is undergoing a degree of decline and people have been put into difficult circumstances as a result.”Burton, who was posted to the Canadian Embassy to China twice as Counsellor?, is associate professor in Brock’s Department of Political Science. He specializes in comparative politics, government and politics of China, Canada-China relations, and human rights. read more

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