The National Bureau of Statistics has acknowledged rampant irregularities over the release of official statistics, in an apparent response to media questions over the leaking of key economic data to a mainland business newspaper. In a commentary on its website, the bureau strongly criticised government departments for leaking official statistics to the media. On July 15, the China Securities Journal's website quoted sources as saying the mainland's gross domestic product had grown 7.9 per cent in the second quarter and 7.1 per cent in the first half, a day before the official release of the data. The government has set a target of 8 per cent for GDP growth this year amid the global downturn, and the release such key data is particularly sensitive at a time of economic uncertainty, as it has great bearing on public confidence in the economy and business sentiment. The leak ruffled feathers at other media outlets - particularly international organisations - which have long been dismayed by official favouritism towards domestic media when data is given out. A Reuters reporter even asked the Foreign Ministry spokesman if he would comment on the 'leakage' of the data, comparing it to a state secret. The news agency had earlier raised the same question with a statistics bureau spokesman, who said he had noticed the data had been reported by some media and that the bureau would investigate how and why the leak had happened. In an article on the bureau's website, the author, under the name Lu Niu, accused some government agencies of 'plagiarism' for releasing official data before the bureau or without its permission. It is common for authorities to release opinions, in the forms of signed commentaries, via official channels. The article also blasted academics for abusing advance access to statistics by intentionally or unintentionally leaking them to the media. 'And some media outlets carelessly publish the statistics, which strictly speaking are state secrets, in a bid to come ahead of time or raise attention,' the article said. It called for greater accountability to guarantee the integrity of official data. 'The release of statistics is not just about the right to do so, it is also about liability,' it added. Earlier this week the bureau's director, Ma Jiantang, during a tour of Guizhou province vouched for the accuracy of the bureau's data. The bureau has been under intense scrutiny in recent years over data ranging from that on wage rises to the consumer price index. Mr Ma said accuracy was at the core of statistical work. The statistics bureau also defended itself over discrepancies in statistics released by different government agencies, saying it was commonplace in many other countries.