China on Friday reacted to a report in the New York Times that said Premier Wen Jiabao’s family had amassed billions of dollars during his tenure by calling it a smear and swiftly blocking not only the newspaper’s sites but all mention of the story online.
The NYT article said Wen’s immediate family was in control of assets worth at least $2.7 billion in various industries and sectors like insurance, property and construction. It alleges that the Wen family’s fortunes grew during his tenure as Premier which began in 2002 and is set to end this year in November.
Wen himself was not linked directly to any of the accumulated assets.When asked to react about the story, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said the report had "ulterior motives".
“Some reports smear China and have ulterior motives,” spokesperson Hong Lei said. When pressed to react about the blocking of the story and both English and Chinese sites of the NYT, he said the internet was managed according relevant laws in China.
"Many relatives of Wen Jiabao, including his son, daughter, younger brother and brother-in-law, have become extraordinarily wealthy during his leadership," the newspaper wrote.
"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."
The article could prove damaging as the Communist Party of China readies for the final few days leading to the 18th National Congress on November 8 when a generation of leaders will take over the reins of China.
It could also prove embarrassing for outgoing Wen himself who’s been seen as a people-friendly leader with a particular aversion against corruption.
According to the BBC, keywords such as Wen Jiabao and the New York Times were blocked on China’s twitter-like websites, called Weibo.
“Some netizens did manage to post the article despite heavy and rapid censorship. A Sina Weibo user tweeted about the article from Kawagoe city in Japan, but his post was removed after 11 minutes,” the BBC said.
In June, the Bloomberg website was blocked after it released a similar story on Xi Jinping who’s set to take over as President Hu Jintao. The website continues to be blocked.