After the release of what are now being referred to as the biggest journalistic leaks in history, governments across the world are looking into the incendiary allegations contained in the explosive documents known as the Panama Papers.
Meanwhile, China is responding to the revelations in the most predictable manner by censoring any mention of the Panama Papers on the internet.
Six of the 50 countries named in the files — France, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands — have already commenced investigations against implicated citizens. More serious repercussions are unfolding in Iceland, where thousands of people have taken to the streets demanding Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson’s resignation. The embattled politician is accused of hiding millions of dollars of investments in his country's banks via an offshore shell company Wintris Inc.
The demonstrations against Gunnlaugsson are reportedly the largest protests in Iceland’s history.
And, perhaps, this kind of intense backlash by the masses is exactly why the powers that be in Beijing do not want Chinese netizens to read anything related to the leaks.
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As per the Panama Papers, eight top officials of China's powerful Politburo Standing Committee were involved in offshore dealings, including Chinese President Xi Jinping’s brother-in-law Deng Jiagui, who was said to have set up two British Virgin Islands companies in 2009.
But it isn’t the first time the Chinese premier’s family has been accused of hiding undisclosed wealth. In 2012, separate investigations by Bloomberg News and The New York Times revealed multimillion dollar assets and business dealings of family members of both Xi and former premier Wen Jiabao.
In response to the exposé, China blocked access to both the publications online.
Therefore, censoring of social media posts on the Panama Papers should come as no surprise. BBC reports “hundreds of posts on networks such as Sina Weibo and Wechat on the topic have been deleted since Monday morning.” Beijing has also denounced the Panama Papers as “biased against non-Western leaders.”
China is already notorious for its crackdown on freedom of speech. However, by banning online discussions over the leaks on social media platforms, the Chinese government is only cementing rumors that it has something to hide.