Around Asia: Bloomberg News quashes China story

In Other News - November 11th, 2013

Bloomberg News has reportedly crumpled an investigative report into alleged ties between one of the richest men in China and the families of top Chinese officials.

Four journalists accused Bloomberg of bowing down to Chinese censorship after being told by their editor-in-chief not to run a story detailing hidden financial ties between a wealthy Chinese billionaire and current and former members of the Politburo Standing Committee.

Senior Bloomberg editors, who’d previously raised no objections, suddenly blocked the story, which had been investigated by an investigative team for the better part of a year, the journalists revealed to The New York Times.

The senior editors reportedly told journalists that the story had no “smoking gun” and uncovered nothing new.

One of the employees said that Matthew Winkler, the longtime editor-in-chief of Bloomberg, told them, “If we run the story, we’ll be kicked out of China.”

Bloomberg could not risk jeopardizing its position by running the story, Winkler said in a conference call to the journalists in Hong Kong late last month.

He compared the decision to self-censorship undertaken by foreign news bureaus in Nazi-era Germany in order to preserve their ability to report from inside the country.

Winkler denied reports that the story had been abandoned. “The stories are active and not spiked,” Winkler said in an email to The New York Times.

“The reporting as presented to me was not ready for publication,” he told The Financial Times, adding that senior editor Laurie Hays and other top editors agreed echoed his assessment.

Bloomberg’s Chinese website was blocked in 2012 after publishing a series of articles on the personal wealth of the families of Chinese leaders, including the new Communist Party chief, Xi Jinping.

Since then, Bloomberg’s operations in China have suffered, as new journalists have been denied residency and subscriptions for its financial news terminals slowed. The news agency is walking on a tightrope after the State Council, China’s cabinet, renewed Bloomberg’s license for two more years starting July.

By Maesie Bertumen

Image: Scott Beale/Laughing Squid