Chinese Censors Erase #PanamaPapers Evidence From Web

(Image:  The Blue Diamond Gallery  /  CC BY-SA 3.0)

While the whole world is talking about the #PanamaPapers, the giant leak of confidential documents from a Panama-based firm that aided scores of politicians in hiding money by setting up offshore shell companies around the world, the majority of mainland Chinese know nothing about its existence.

According to the documents, which were compiled by International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the leaked files reveal offshore companies linked to the family of China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, who has vowed to fight “armies of corruption”.

China’s Web censor has blocked #PanamaPapers from major search engines and deleted all discussions about the leak on social media since April 4, in an effort to keep the majority of mainland Chinese people from finding out that (according to ICIJ) “family members of at least eight current or former members of China’s Poliburo Standing Committee, the couture’s main ruling body, have offshore companies arranged through Mossack Fonseca.”

Netizens are reporting that even emails referencing the leak have been tampered with.

China-based netizens have been posting regular updates on the censorship measures on Twitter. First, the Chinese translation of Panama Papers vanished from top three search engines in China.

The screen-captured images show the pop-up notice that appears when users search the sensitive term: “Search results may not comply with relevant laws, regulations and policies, not displayed. It is recommended to try searching other related terms.” All other related terms, news and discussions were deleted in a matter of a few second on Weibo:  

Even private e-mails appear to be under sensitive word filtering:

Leaked censorship instructions indicated that the propaganda authorities are acting in full gear (via China Digital Times):

The ICIJ report implicates the brother-in-law of current Chinese president Xi Jinping, daughter of former Chinese Premier Li Peng, granddaughter of Jia Qinglin who stepped down from the Politburo Standing Committee in 2012, and business partner of Gu Kaila, the wife of former Chinese politician Bo Xilai who was sentenced to life imprisonment for corruption in 2013.

Below is a detailed description of the Chinese power players in ICIJ’s report:

According to BBC’s latest report, two more members from the Politburo Standing Committee, Zhang Gaoli and Liu Yunshan, have relatives-in-law holding off-shore firms in the leaked files. Liu Yunshan is the head of propaganda in China.

Thus far, there has been no official response to the Panama Papers, but the party-affiliated mouthpiece Global Times stressed that “powerful forces” are operating behind the scenes, denouncing the leak as a conspiracy against leaders from non-Western countries and suggesting that Vladimir Putin was a primary target of the leak.

This article by Oiwan Lam originally appeared on Global Voices.

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