China restricted access to US news agency Bloomberg this past week. According to Bloomberg spokesperson Ty Trippet this is in reaction to a recent article divulging the familial wealth of Xi Jinping, the man expected to be the next Chinese president. The article, which ran June 29, explains the extreme wealth of the Xi family, including interests in “rare-earths mining, real estate and mobile-phone equipment.”
The exposé is clear to not tie the Communist politician to his family’s massive wealth:
No assets were traced to Xi, who turns 59 this month; his wife Peng Liyuan, 49, a famous People’s Liberation Army singer; or their daughter, the documents show. There is no indication Xi intervened to advance his relatives’ business transactions, or of any wrongdoing by Xi or his extended family.
It does, however, enumerate the business assets the family has accumulated over many years, which amount to over $376 million.
The regime-sanctioned censorship, which occurred over the weekend, blocks Chinese Internet users from viewing Bloomberg articles and restricts any searches about Xi or his family.
This is just an example of the heightened attentiveness the Chinese government has kept over Internet users with the upcoming regime change. The Times of India explains that this ratcheting up of online filtration tactics is indicative of “the government’s concerns about ensuring the country’s leadership transition goes smoothly.”
The US has responded by urging China to stop censoring the Internet. An anonymous State Department spokesperson was quoted as saying, “We have continually urged China to respect internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms on the Internet, including freedom of expression.”
Prior to this event, the US was already concerned about China blocking US businesses’ sites. In late 2011, the US filed an inquiry with the WTO, questioning China about their online filtration program as it applied to US companies. The inquiry looked into the China’s censorship practices, looking specifically at “the adverse business impacts” it causes when blocking US commercial websites. Given these and other difficulties with China’s complex censorship program, the US has been keeping a watchful eye over China’s online operation.