New York Times websites blocked in China after story on Wen family wealth

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 October, 2012, 9:29am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 January, 2013, 9:47pm

According to numerous internet users in China, the New York Times website has been unreachable from IP addresses within the country since early Friday morning.

The move to block both the Chinese- and English-language versions of the website was made within hours of the publication of an article which details the extent of the massive wealth amassed by the family members of China's current Premier, Wen Jiabao. 

"Billions in Hidden Riches for Family of Chinese Leader", reads the headline of the article, which later on writes:

Many relatives of Wen Jiabao, including his son, daughter, younger brother and brother-in-law, have become extraordinarily wealthy during his leadership, an investigation by The New York Times shows. A review of corporate and regulatory records indicates that the prime minister’s relatives, some of whom have a knack for aggressive deal-making, including his wife, have controlled assets worth at least $2.7 billion.

In many cases, the names of the relatives have been hidden behind layers of partnerships and investment vehicles involving friends, work colleagues and business partners. Untangling their financial holdings provides an unusually detailed look at how politically connected people have profited from being at the intersection of government and business as state influence and private wealth converge in China’s fast-growing economy.

Bloomberg met a similar fate in June this year when it published its own expose of the riches belonging to family members of Xi Jinping, who will be made president of China early next month and the company has reportedly faced difficulties maintaining its mainland China operations since.

In a statement regarding the block on its website, the New York Times wrote:

The authorities were also blocking attempts to mention The Times or Wen Jiabao in postings on Sina Weibo, an extremely popular mini-blogging service in China that resembles Twitter.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman on duty in Beijing early Friday morning did not immediately answer phone calls for comment.

On October 23, Chinese political gossip website Boxun wrote that "several" Western media outlets were recently sent detailed information regarding Wen Jiabao's family members, part of a "media war" against Wen backed by conservatives within the Chinese Communist Party.