(Reuters) - China’s princelings, the children of the country’s political elite, have often had a poor image with a string of scandals in the past three decades, including execution for hooliganism, defection and more recently murder and corruption.
These young men and women were reviled by many in the 1980s for their privileges and enriching themselves as China opened up. But their image has improved in recent years as many of them have risen to political power. Some have championed egalitarianism, while others have vowed to fight widespread corruption.
Below are some of the high and low points of the princelings:
- Zhu Guohua, a grandson of Marshal Zhu De, was executed in the northern port city of Tianjin in 1983 on the now-defunct charge of hooliganism. The execution led in part to the downfall of then Communist Party chief Hu Yaobang who had refused to spare the 25-year-old despite repeated appeals from party elders. The criminal code was revised in 1997 when the crime of hooliganism was abolished.
- Yu Qiangsheng, an intelligence official and a son of a former party boss of Tianjin, defected to the United States in the mid-1980s. The defection resulted in the arrest and suicide in custody of China’s top mole in the Central Intelligence Agency. Yu’s brother, Yu Zhengsheng, however overcame the scandal to eke his way into the party’s seven-member decision-making politburo standing committee at the 18th congress which wrapped up earlier this month.
- Deng Pufang, wheelchair-bound son of late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, was embroiled in a financial scandal in the late 1980s when Kang Hua, the trading empire he founded, was accused of abusing tax exemption privileges granted for its donations to his welfare fund for the disabled. Deng senior ordered Kang Hua shut down.
- Three princelings were voted out in elections to choose Beijing’s delegates to the party’s 13th national congress in 1987, apparently because of the poor reputation of princelings as a group.
- Current party chief Xi Jinping, a son of late vice premier Xi Zhongxun, finished last in elections to the central committee at the 15th congress in 1997, while Bo Xilai, a son of late vice premier Bo Yibo, was voted out.
- Wang Qishan, a son-in-law of late vice premier Yao Yilin, catapulted from party boss of China’s smallest province, Hainan, to mayor of capital Beijing, where he ended a government cover-up of the SARS epidemic in 2003. A darling of foreign investors and a reputed troubleshooter, Wang helped clean up a financial mess in the southern province of Guangdong in the 1990s.
- General Liu Yuan, political commissar of the People’s Liberation Army’s General Logistics Department and a son of late president Liu Shaoqi, declared war on corruption even if it meant losing his job. He brought down Lieutenant General Gu Junshan, who has been sacked and awaits court-martial. But Liu was passed over for promotion to the party’s Central Military Commission, which commands the People’ Liberation Army, at the 18th congress because he alienated Gu’s powerful backers. Liu was deemed too close to Bo Xilai, party sources said.
- Bo was ousted in March as party boss of the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing, lost his Politburo seat in April and was expelled from the party in September in the country’s worst political scandal in more than three decades. Bo was accused of taking bribes and abusing his power, suggesting he tried to obstruct a police inquiry into the November 2011 poisoning of a British businessman in his bailiwick Chongqing. His wife, a daughter of a general, has been jailed for the murder.
- Xi replaced Hu Jintao as Communist Party and military chief, emerging as the first among equals in the standing committee in a dramatic comeback 15 years after the embarrassing election results. He is tipped to succeed Hu as state president next March.
- Li Xiaopeng, 53, a son of former premier and parliament chief Li Peng, collected the least number of votes in central committee elections at the 18th congress. Li senior declared martial law in 1989 at the height of the 1989 student-led demonstrations for democracy which was crushed by the army days later. Li junior is tipped to be promoted as governor of the northern coal-rich province of Shanxi from executive vice governor, sources with ties to the leadership told Reuters.
Compiled by Benjamin Kang Lim; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan