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Geopolitics

New York Times Blocked By China Over Wen Jiabao "Smear"

NEW YORK TIMES (U.S.), THE BBC (UK)

Worldcrunch

BEIJING - China's foreign ministry Friday blocked access to the website of the New York Times in response to the newspaper's investigation into the wealth of Chinese premier Wen Jiabao's family.

The article by David Barboza, which was published late Thursday, reported that Wen's extended family have assets exceeding $2.7 billion; thus destroying his image as an ordinary leader with the common touch. Beijing called the report a "smear."

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Photo courtesy of World Economic Forum

A foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said, "Some reports smear China and have ulterior motives."

The New York Times's main website and its Chinese-language service have been blocked in the country. The government has also censored any searches for the news organization on English or Chinese microblogs.

"China manages the Internet in accordance with laws and rules," Hong told reporters during a press briefing.

A spokesperson for the New York Times said that they hoped full service to the newspaper in China would be restored shortly. However, as the news organization allows users to download a PDF file, the article is expected to circulate anyway.

The investigative report found that Wen's family has acquired holdings in property, insurance and construction firms during his 10-year premiership, which will end on November 8 during the country's transition of power.

"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," the New York Times reports.

The report was based on the family holdings from 1992-2012, and no assets were found in Wen's name.

The image below is a screenshot of the details of the Wen family:

"Often referred to as "Grandpa Wen" by state media, the premier is one of the few senior Chinese politicians with the popular touch, usually the first to appear at the side of victims of earthquakes or other disasters as a kind of consoler-in-chief. But there have long been rumors that his decade in the job has brought more tangible benefits to his immediate family, and now the New York Times has put a figure on it," reports John Sudworth, the BBC's Shanghai correspondent.

The report is yet another blow for the scandal ridden political elite in China. The Bloomberg website was also blocked earlier this year when it revealed the multi-million dollar assets of Xi Jinping's family and the $136 million in accumulated assets by disgraced politician Bo Xilai.

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