DHARAMSHALA, June 2: China blocked access to Bloomberg's website in the mainland after the financial news agency carried a report Friday revealing multimillion-dollar assets and business dealings of relatives of Chinese vice president Xi Jinping, the man set to become the country's next president.
China also blocked web searches for the name of the leader-in-waiting and Bloomberg affiliate Business Week.
The report discusses extensive business interests of Xi's relatives, including investments in companies with total assets of $376 million, an 18 per cent indirect stake in a rare-earths company with $1.73 billion in assets and a $20 million holding in a tech company.
Even though Bloomberg clarified in its report that none of these assets can be directly linked to Xi, 58, or his wife, Peng Liyuan, 49, the access to riches enjoyed by the elite in a country with a growing wealth gap, prompted Chinese authorities to block access to all of Bloomberg’s sites.
“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 was quoted by AFP as saying.
Chinese authorities were not immediately available for comments.
"The government has always been very careful in, on the one hand, emphasising how they want to contain corruption but yet also worrying about how reports of this nature might galvanize public opinion against the Communist Party,'' said Dali Yang, a political scientist at University of Chicago Center in Beijing.
The US state department requested Beijing to "respect internationally recognised human rights and fundamental freedoms on the internet, including the freedom of expression" while suggesting that the Chinese censors had clamped down on the news agency.
Beijing regularly blocks internet searches of information that it considers sensitive under a vast online censorship system known as the “Great Firewall”.
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.