Wen Jiabao

Chinese censors block New York Times

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 October, 2012, 2:35pm
UPDATED : Friday, 04 January, 2013, 9:46pm

Chinese censors blocked online searches related to the New York Times as well as the newspaper’s websites on Friday after it published an investigation on the wealth of the Chinese premier’s family.

Searches for “New York Times” in Chinese and “NYT” were blocked on the popular social networking website Sina Weibo, which is similar to Twitter, with searches returning a message that the result could not be displayed “due to relevant laws”.

The New York Times’ official accounts on Sina Weibo and a popular rival, Tencent Weibo, had both been deleted on Friday, with attempts to access the accounts returning the message “this user does not exist”.

Searches for premier “Wen Jiabao” were also blocked on both social networking sites, but the names of top Chinese leaders are generally blocked on such sites.

Both Weibo sites also blocked searches using the name of Wen’s wife, Zhang Beili, and his son Wen Yunsong.

China’s most popular internet search engine, Baidu, displayed a message saying “some results cannot be displayed” in response to searches for the name of Wen and his family.

While China’s 538 million internet users are able to use microblogs to accuse local officials of corruption, posts making reference to China’s most powerful politicians are regularly deleted by online censors.

The New York Times launched a Chinese-language website in June, “designed to bring New York Times journalism to China,” the company said. The website, and its English equivalent, were inaccessible to ordinary Chinese users on Friday.

The New York Times reported that Wen’s family had controlled assets worth US$2.7 billion dollars according to company and regulatory filings seen by the newspaper from 1992-this year.

The report comes as an embarrassment for Wen, whose public image is of a man of humble origins and a reformer fighting abuses and corruption within the party – a source of widespread anger among ordinary Chinese.