China Hushes Online Discussion of Panama Papers

While the world is still getting over the initial shock by this week’s gargantuan data leak of the approximately 11 million “Panama Papers”, those in China may not even be aware of the massive scandal.

China appears to be on a censoring stampede, vigorously deleting social media’s posts on the Panama Papers.

The leak, obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung by an anonymous source then shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), revealed scores of the world’s elite leaders in connection to offshore deals, including China’s President Xi Jinping’s brother-in-law.

The investigation took on Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca, looking into how the rich have used the fourth-largest provider of offshore services as tax havens to conceal their wealth.

There are 8 current or former Chinese power-figures from the Politburo Standing Committee – the CCP’s dominant political body – who are among 140 political actors worldwide allegedly connected to the accounts.

The documents showed that Deng Jiagui, husband of President Xi’s older sister Qi Qiaoqiao, had set up two shell companies in the British Virgin Islands in 2009, while Xi was gaining political power.

Mr. Deng did not respond to any requests for comments from the ICIJ.

China’s state media has blacked out any news on the matter, and the hundreds of posts buzzing on the Chinese net on networks such as Sina Weibo and WeChat since Monday morning, have all been deleted.

A hashtag that was created on the issue quickly trended. However, at least 481 discussions were deleted from the hashtag’s Weibo topic page, checks by the BBC found.

Mr. Deng was not the only high-profile person to be implicated in the investigation. Others include Li Xiaolin,  the daughter of former premier Li Peng, as well as Jasmine Li, the granddaughter of former high-ranking official Jia Qinglin.

Like Mr. Deng, both women refused to respond to ICIJ requests to comment.

The website Freeweibo.com is a site that actively tracks censorship by the Chinese government on Weibo. The site found that the term “Panama” was listed as the second-most censored term on the network, right after the top-most censored “Ten Years,” the name of a controversial Hong Kong movie.

 

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