New York Times blocked in China over prime minister report

The Times wrote a story detailing Wen Jiabao’s wealth, and China did not respond favorably.

The Chinese government is not too happy today with The New York Times.

The Times yesterday published a report on the country’s prime minister Wen Jiabao. In that, the Times reported that his family has “controlled assets” valued at $2.7 billion. His wealth comes despite many people in China living in poverty, and was built in some cases, on financial backing from state-owned companies, the Times claims.

In response, the Times reported today that China has blocked its site in both English and Chinese for mentioning his family’s wealth. Users that cited the Times article on Sina Weibo, a popular Twitter-like microblogging service in China, have also seen their postings removed.

China is certainly no stranger to blocking sites. In the past, the company has banned everything from Foursquare to YouTube. Google, which was forced to censor certain search results, removed its servers from China shores in 2010, and now keeps them in Hong Kong to escape the government.

The wealth of China’s political elite has become a cause for concern for the government as it tries to appear more populist in the face of a growing middle class. To control that, China has resorted to blockades. Earlier this year, Bloomberg reported that Xi Jinping, the man believed to be China’s next president, is worth millions. Bloomberg was quickly blocked by the government.

“We hope that full access is restored shortly, and we will ask the Chinese authorities to ensure that our readers in China can continue to enjoy New York Times journalism,” Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said today in a statement.

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