News / Asia

China Blocks NYTimes Website Over Story on Wen Jiabao

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao speaks during an EU-China summit in Brussels on Sept. 20, 2012.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao speaks during an EU-China summit in Brussels on Sept. 20, 2012.
Chinese government censors moved quickly to block the New York Times website Friday after it published a blockbuster story detailing the massive wealth accumulated by the family of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.

The report threatened to shatter the public image of Wen, who is known as a compassionate, reformist leader with a modest background. The Times says a review of corporate and regulatory records indicate the prime minister's relatives control assets of at least $2.7 billion.

Just hours after the article was posted, access to the paper's English and Chinese-language websites was blocked throughout China. Censors also hurried to delete references to the prime minister and his family on China's Twitter-like Weibo microblog, while the Times' Chinese social media accounts were also deleted.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei condemned the article on Friday, telling reporters that it was meant to "smear China" and had "ulterior motives."

NY Times reacts

Eileen Murphy, the paper's spokeswoman, expressed disappointment and said she hopes full access is restored soon. But she said the Times refuses to compromise its journalistic standards.  Following the June launch of its Chinese-language site, the paper made a similar commitment, vowing not to tailor its content based on "the demands of the Chinese government."

In a move suggesting it anticipated China's anger at the Friday article on Wen, the Times made the Chinese-language version available for download in PDF format, making it much easier to distribute.

Corruption allegations

It is not the first time that Beijing has blocked Chinese access to Western news outlets that posted stories exposing senior level government corruption. Bloomberg's website has been blocked since June, when it ran a similar story describing the wealth amassed by the family of Vice President Xi Jinping, who is likely to become the country's leader for the next decade.

The stories are a major embarrassment for the Communist Party, which has vowed to crack down on corruption following widespread public anger over several high profile scandals. They also come just before a sensitive, once-a-decade leadership transition, which begins in less than two weeks with the 18th Party Congress.

The transition has already been overshadowed by the downfall of former Politburo member Bo Xilai, whose wife was convicted of corruption and murder in August. State media said Friday that Bo, under investigation for corruption and bribery, has been stripped of his legal immunity, suggesting he will soon stand trial.

Censorship

China's extensive network of Internet censors, dubbed the Great Firewall of China, has been working extra hard in the lead-up to the November 8 Congress to delete any sensitive online content regarding Bo or other senior Communist Party members.

Many analysts, speaking on the condition of anonymity, say they expect the censorship to get worse as the date of the Congress approaches, noting that Beijing has in the past throttled Internet communication ahead of sensitive political events.

Some foreign journalists in China have already reported slower than usual Internet connections and increased trouble accessing VPNs, which allow users to circumvent Chinese censorship. The cause of the problem is difficult to identify, since Internet access in China is normally inconsistent and those wanting to access barred foreign websites must already play a cat-and-mouse game in order to do so.

Recent problems with the Internet have become so widespread that The Relevant Organs, a spoof Chinese government Twitter account, joked this week that the "next notch on the Internet Slower-Downer is off," saying foreigners should "catch the hint and get out of town for the Party Congress."

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by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
October 30, 2012 11:23 AM
Now, it has reported that Wen eventually announced a statement that denied the news alleging his relatives of enomous moneymaking by corrupton. This kind of prompt responce is noticed as an ever rare action by leaders of origarchy in China. Is this a dim sign of Chinese govrnment's change to ease intelligence regulation? I hope the original website would be restored by Chinese authorities themselves. And then, Wen could accuse news source of falsehood if he want. I think these procedures could be conducted for sure in the real democratic society.

by: jianhua from: east regon
October 30, 2012 1:39 AM
it is not true

by: jianhua from: china
October 29, 2012 11:14 PM
it is hard for me to believe there is such a event involved about wen.the reporter must be for for political purposes or want to discredit his images. Wen has been respected and loved by most Chinese people and especially by normal people since as a Premier. i also love him very much as an ordinary person of china and trust him to be one of best leaders of china in history.
the history wil judge him objectively and fairly and give him a clean record!
In Response

by: ts from: earth
October 31, 2012 10:07 AM
Many Chinese say the same things about Mao, murderer of 70 million citizens. Chinese are the last fools on earth who will believe their government's every lie, spread by their media and education system.

by: john from: german
October 29, 2012 10:20 PM
Corruption for the CCP is "famous" and known by everyone in china, 90% of the society wealth is robbed by the party,an ordinary family can't afford to buy a living house even by spending their whole lifetime.In china, basic human rights can't be protected,no fairness and justice for the common people, and they are eager to overthrow the rule of dark CP.
I'm so sad for the chinese people that they have no guns and arms to fight their enemy. As the wake up of people, i'm sure you will beat your enemy with your courage and anger in the end.

by: WTF?
October 28, 2012 8:44 AM
Yes, by showing that Wen's family is rich you thereby prove that Wen did not come from a humble background.

Apparently reporters from the NYTs have never taken logic classes. Or if they have they probably failed and decided to become journalists where logic does not apply.

by: Anonymous from: China
October 28, 2012 7:01 AM
I'm an ordinary Chinese people,knowing that Premier We is an advocate of deep political reform in China and he's respected and prestigious among the majority of the Chinese people. I'm so sorry and frustrated to see the report,whether it's true or not,history will judge,as Mr. Wen used to say "fairness and justice are brighter than the sun",history will tell us something.
In Response

by: john from: german
October 29, 2012 10:35 PM
the fact is that Wen had changed nothing until he stepped down. it's impossible for the CCP to hand out their thievery and give up plunder. Only the mass chinese people have the power and strength to start and finish political reform, possibly by the uprising, not peacefully.

by: Communist Buster
October 27, 2012 3:06 PM
Prime minister (Wen Jiabao)'s relatives control assets of at least $2.7 billion----Oh, poor Chinese people! They are all uninformed that Communist leaders are all habitual criminals of corruption. Instead, Chinese people are puppets in the hands of Communist leaders, bullying neighboring south east countries and provoking Japan. Chinese people should regain their own wealth, freedom, and even human rights and live peacefully along with people of neighboring countries.
In Response

by: bety from: Vietnam
October 29, 2012 9:51 AM
eric: Japan occupied Senkaku in 1895 legally and has been controlling it since then.
China didn't complain about it until oil was found nearby sea.
Stop telling a lie and bullying neighbors.
Stop oppressing Tibetans and Uighurs.

China is an aggressor and sick man of Asia..
In Response

by: liuzhengzi from: hubei province,china
October 29, 2012 1:36 AM
I am a Chinese .why you, as a foreign ,want to care about the affairs of china which really is somebody’s doubt and lies but do not care about the fact of Chinese ? we like our government ,and absolutely trust our government which is the reason why we hardly say “no”.
As for the south chinese sea, we don’t bully south east countries, the place belong to china
In Response

by: eric
October 28, 2012 10:04 AM
provoke japan? can you tell why you think china provoke japan instead of japan provoking china first. curruption is serious in china. that' true even though i can be sure if this article is right. but this crisis between china and japan is because japan invade china's island first but china provoke japan deliberately.

by: reform supporters from: China
October 27, 2012 2:28 PM
Since cpc's father, Mao Zedong, was a corrupted leader, we think no cpc leader is clean. That's to say, it is mainland political constitution to be blamed for the corruption issue, not any individual cpc leader, or we can say, cpc leader's corruption is under the protection of their basic law which safeguards cpc's special benefits.
What's more, Chinese political reform and reunification need powerful leader like Wen. Advise China keep Wen as the head for the political reform consutant organization

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
October 27, 2012 7:59 AM
Corruption and bribery are always companions of autocracy governments. Where information is regulated and concealed by them, no protest brings about in general people. I hope Mr.Wen Jiabao is conscientious at least enough to account for the report.
In Response

by: Anonymous
October 27, 2012 1:20 PM
i'm somebody from TC,it's hard to register the wedsite and don't if i did it .so i type some words to have a try.if it did,all i want to say is i'm sorry about this,and so shameful^
In Response

by: Anonymous
October 27, 2012 12:41 PM
I bet he won't.

The oligarchy are so corrupted that, if he does, once the full extend of the corrupted, their days are numbered.

The average Chinese won't know such things of Wen's corruption either although they might have some very dim idea that every top leader and his/her families, including those remote ones, are corrupted in some way. But the details as revealed by the NYT report would still shock almost all ordinary Chinese if they could read the report.

So media censorship is necessary from the perspective of the oligarchy.


by: Communist Buster from: USA
October 27, 2012 7:41 AM
Prime minister (Wen Jiabao)'s relatives control assets of at least $2.7 billion----Oh, Jesus Christ! Poor Chinese people! They are all uninformed that Communist leaders are all habitual criminals of corruption. Instead, Chinese people are puppets in the hands of Communist leaders, bullying neighboring south east countries and provoking Japan. Chinese people should regain their own wealth, freedom, and even human rights and live peacefully along with people of neighboring countries.
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