Chinese press censors are banning access to reports on the Panama Papers, according to an online censorship watchdog group.
The China Digital Times, a website run by UC-Berkeley’s Counter-Power Lab, obtained the directive from an anonymous source at an unnamed agency, but says the censorship instructions were issued to the media by government authorities. Here it is in full, according to their translation:
X Province Internet Information Office: Find and delete reprinted reports on the Panama Papers. Do not follow up on related content, no exceptions. If material from foreign media attacking China is found on any website, it will be dealt with severely. This directive was delivered orally to on-duty editors. Please act immediately. (April 4, 2016)
X Website: Please withdraw the article “Panama Papers Leaked, Putin in USD 200 Million Money Laundering Scandal” and related stories from the dual homepages [site-wide and news] (including [social media] clients), and move articles to the backend of the site. (April 4, 2016) [Chinese]
The Digital Times also says Sina Weibo, China’s microblogging site, has blocked results for each of the following searches:
- Panama + offshore
- offshore + finance
- Panama Papers
- Panama + Li Xialoin
- Panama + Deng Jiagui
- Panama + Xi Jinping
The latter blocks refer to the fact that the Panama Papers identified relatives of “at least eight current or former members of China’s Politburo Standing Committee” as having connections to accounts at the Panama-based firm from which the leaks sprung. Among them, the Times says, are Xi Jinping’s brother-in-law, Deng Jiagui; former premier Li Peng’s daughter, Li Xiaolin; and Jasmine Li, granddaughter of former Standing Committee member Jia Qinglin.
The Times says that a search on China’s version of Google, Baidu, “does return some news results related to the leak. However, three of the top five articles can no longer be accessed, one is just a single-sentence announcement of the French government’s promise to investigate the reports.”
The Guardian reports that Chinese news groups, from which Premier Xi Xi recently demanded “absolute loyalty”–”appeared to be closely following those orders on Tuesday.” The paper noted that the Shanghai Daily newspaper had “purged an online version of its front page story entitled: ‘Papers reveal “never-before-seen view inside the offshore world”.’”
Users trying to access that story, which despite making no mention of the alleged links to Chinese politicians, were greeted with the message: “It appears that the server is unable to locate the page you requested.”