China is blocking access to the New York Times website this morning because the Times is featuring an expose on Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao who is known for his humble roots. The story uses corporate and regulatory records to show that Wen's family has accumulated some $2.7 billion in wealth.
The story lasted less than three hours on the New York Times English website in China before authorities not only blocked the site, but then blocked the Times Chinese language site as well.
Beijing-based law professor Stan Abrams says even if the information wasn’t censored in China, he’s not sure the Chinese public would have much of a reaction: "What have we learned? We’ve learned that one of the highest leaders in China, that person’s family, has used his position to get really wealthy."
Abrams says most Chinese, cynical about their rulers, already know that. But the difference here is that Times reporter David Barboza meticulously uncovered factual evidence to prove it. For the Times, the price for that effort is an error message whenever someone inside China’s Great Firewall wants to visit its site.