A Family Affair: Zhou Yongkang’s Son Arrested, Family Under Investigation

By Lu Chen
Lu Chen
Lu Chen
July 29, 2014 Updated: August 3, 2014

Following the announcement on July 29 of the arrest of Party heavyweight Zhou Yongkang, mainland Chinese media reported that Zhou’s son, Zhou Bin, had been arrested. The son’s case may be used to help build a corruption case against the father.

The business magazine Caixin said that Zhou Bin was suspected of illegal business practices in Hubei Province. The article was widely republished by state-run media.

This article is the first time that mainland Chinese media has confirmed the relationship between Zhou Bin and Zhou Yongkang. In the past, Zhou Bin had been referred to as a “mysterious wealthy businessman” rather than as Zhou Yongkang’s son.

The Caixin report states that the 42-year-old Zhou Bin, by relying on his father’s political influence, has established a huge commercial empire in Beijing, Sichuan, and even overseas. Zhou Bin’s businesses are involved in hydropower, electrical generation, oil industry, tourism, investment, and others. Their total value is estimated to be in the billions of dollars.

The focus of Zhou Yongkang’s expected corruption trial may focus on corruption involving his family members.

On Aug. 1, 2013, the wealthy Sichuan businessman Wu Bing, who had close business ties with Zhou Bin and his mother in-law Zhan Minli, was put in official custody, according to Chinese media Caixin.

By the end of August 2013, three high executives at PetroChina—Li Hualin, Ran Xinquan, and Wang Fudao—who are alumni of Zhou Bin’s college, were investigated for “severe violations of the law,” state-run media reported.

Early December 2013, Zhou Bin and his wife Huang Wan were taken away by police for investigation.

December 2013, Zhou Yongkang’s brother Zhou Yuanqing, Zhou Yuanqing’s wife Zhou Lingying, and their son Zhou Feng, were all taken away by anti-corruption officials. Zhou Yuanqing is a retired official in the local Land Bureau in Wuxi City of Jiangsu Province.

Zhou Lingying opened a company that imports and exports all kinds of goods and technology. She has gained a number of high value gas and oil projects relying on her family ties with Zhou Yongkang, according to China Business News.

This July, the sister of Zhou Yongkang’s wife, Jia Xiaoxia, the chief representative of the Canadian branch of PetroChina, abruptly resigned, and her whereabouts is unknown, according to Chinese news website ThePaper.cn.

Zhou Bin also has close business tie with Liu Han, a Chinese tycoon who was sentenced to death this April after being found guilty on 15 criminal charges, including illegal businesses and murder.

Liu once purchased tourism project from Zhou for a high price of 12 million yuan (US$2 million) to curry favor with Zhou, but Zhou is not currently involved in Liu’s crimes, the Caijing report states.

Reuters published an exclusive report this March, quoting inside sources saying that Chinese authorities have seized assets worth at least 90 billion yuan ($14.5 billion) from family members and associates of Zhou Yongkang. More than 300 of Zhou’s relatives, political allies, protégés and staff have also been taken into custody or questioned in the four months before the report, Reuters said.

The sources said most of the assets were not in Zhou Yongkang’s name but his family members’, which makes this biggest ever political case likely to center on the fortunes his family made in the industries that were under his political influence.

The only family member of Zhou Yongkang who’s safe from investigation is his younger son, Zhou Han, two years younger than Zhou Bin, according to Chinese finance news media Gucheng.

After their mother Wang Shuhua’s death in a car accident in 1999, the relationship between Zhou Yongkang and his two sons turned bad. Rumors came out later that Wang’s car accident was plotted under orders of Zhou Yongkang.

In 2001, Zhou Yongkang married the Chinese Central Television TV host, Jia Xiaoye, who was 28 years younger than Zhou. Zhou Han broke ties with his father after his mother’s death, but Zhou Bin continued to gain money relying on his father’s power, the report states.

Lu Chen
Lu Chen