Sorry, New York Times readers in China. You're going to need to look for a new paper to read tomorrow morning. China has banned the Times from their Internet over an "explosive" story about the accumulated wealth of outgoing Prime Minister Wen Jiabao's family.
The article says the value of assets controlled by Wen’s family is at least $2.7 billion, a shocking figure even in a country where government corruption is rampant and popular resentment against the elite has increased in recent years. The scandal also complicates the apparent intention of Chinese leaders to tackle corruption as a main issue at the Nov. 8 party congress, a move they have been signaling in the wake of other scandals that had dramatically shaken the party’s core leadership.
China apparently sprung into action not very long after the piece was first published. They've blocked the Grey Lady's Chinese and English websites, and are censuring any mention of the Times or Wen on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter.
The blocking of the Times' Chinese site is a pretty big blow to their efforts to penetrate the Chinese language market. The Times just launched the site in late June. They began translating their articles into Chinese, and began adding original content to the site as well. But, on the other hand, they knew a ban like this was coming. Bloomberg News got blocked from the Chinese internet over the summer for a story about how incoming President Xi Jinping has collected $376 million for his family. The Times' own reporting on their ban indicates they knew it was coming.
Still, that's a lot of traffic to forfeit. They're lucky Wen is leaving office soon. Xi doesn't have a problem with the Times, as far as we know.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.