The Chinese government’s decision to cut off access to Bloomberg sites and blocking searches to the probable next leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping has again highlighted the authorities’ increasing unease as the time for the leadership change approaches.
The censors got to work over the weekend after Bloomberg published a report detailing the wealth accumulated by Xi’s extended family.
The report made it a point to say none of the wealth or assets the family could be traced to Xi or his wife or daughter; it also made it clear that there was no evidence of any wrongdoing.
On Sunday, the blocks on searching Xi’s name seemed to have been removed but the news website continued to be blacked out.
“Our Bloomberg.com website is currently inaccessible in China in reaction, we believe, to a Bloomberg News story that was published on Friday,” company spokesman Ty Trippet told AFP in an email.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the censorship and urged China to stop blocking overseas websites and news. “China cannot have lasting success as an international power if officials block global business news because they don’t like a critical report,” Bob Dietz, CPJ Asia program coordinator, said.
In April, preceding the high-profile sacking of the populist Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai was probably the biggest and focused crackdown by the government in recent times on the internet and social media websites to quell coup rumours.
Censors deleted more than 210000 posts and closed down 42 websites in less than a month as gossip on the internet about an imminent coup spread across social networking websites and micro-blogging sites like sina.com.
In late March, six persons were also arrested for putting on updates that allegedly fanned rumours of a rebellion.
Even incidents where people related to politicians are involved, censorship is evoked. In March, a high-speed Ferrari car crash has reportedly led the government to impose restrictions on the online search of both the incident and the car on Chinese websites and micro-blogging platforms. Reports said the word Ferrari was deleted from websites and no information was available on the crash either. The apparent hush-up by the government had triggered speculation that the deceased driver was the son of someone powerful in the government.