Chinese officials paid a visit to Bloomberg News offices in Beijing and Shanghai last week, according to Fortune, where they conducted “inspections” that Bloomberg employees say were intended to spook them.
Bloomberg received heavy criticism earlier last month for reportedly pulling a year-long investigation into the relationship between a Chinese billionaire and government officials, because they feared reprisals from Beijing. The company has stated only that the investigation has been delayed, though the investigation's lead reporter Mike Forsyth left the company after several years in their employ. It is believed by some that Forsyth leaked the spiking story to other outlets.
It's been alleged that Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief Matt Winkler explained to insiders that Bloomberg followed the precedent set by news outlets in Nazi-era Germany by self-censoring to avoid an official expulsion from the country. The company denied that he made these remarks, but Chinese authorities were irked nevertheless. Fortune reports:
Instead of soothing the government, Winkler's reported comment appears to have stirred anger. During the visits, Fortune is told, at least one Chinese official asked the company for an apology from Winkler. Different sources say, variously, that the visits were characterized as "security inspections" or "safety inspections." But journalists inside Bloomberg view the appearance by civil government officials (they weren't police) as an act of intimidation.
China has a notoriously poor reputation for press freedom, and has cracked down on bloggers in recent months, even arresting some for “rumor-mongering.” A top Chinese prosecutors said in September that individuals whose social media posts are shared more than 500 times or seen by 5,000 individuals could be charged with defamation.
Last year, Bloomberg published a report on the wealthy families of public officials, which was not well received by the Chinese government.
Chinese president Xi Jinping, who came into power in March of this year, has vowed to fight corruption in government, but his commitment to the cause has been called into question by a spotty track record on combatting government graft.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.