The New York Times went live this morning with a report on the massive wealth held by Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao's family. Hours later, the newspaper's website was blocked in mainland China and authorities were reportedly doing their best to block any mention of the newspaper or the prime minister on Sina Weibo, the Chinese micro-blogging service that is akin to Twitter.
As the Washington Post points out, the report—and government response—comes only days before a "sensitive, once-in-a-decade transition of power from Wen and others to a new generation of leaders."
The original NYT report pegs the prime minister's family wealth at north of $2.7 billion:
In many cases, the names of the relatives have been hidden behind layers of partnerships and investment vehicles involving friends, work colleagues and business partners. Untangling their financial holdings provides an unusually detailed look at how politically connected people have profited from being at the intersection of government and business as state influence and private wealth converge in China’s fast-growing economy.
Unlike most new businesses in China, the family’s ventures sometimes received financial backing from state-owned companies, including China Mobile, one of the country’s biggest phone operators, the documents show. At other times, the ventures won support from some of Asia’s richest tycoons. The Times found that Mr. Wen’s relatives accumulated shares in banks, jewelers, tourist resorts, telecommunications companies and infrastructure projects, sometimes by using offshore entities.