China directs local media outlets to stop reporting WikiLeaks content

China directs local media outlets to stop reporting WikiLeaks content

While the world’s media are afire with yesterday’s WikiLeaks data release of secret US diplomatic cables, the local media in China are strangely quiet.

The reason, according to a Twitter update by Al Jazeera English’s correspondent in China,  Melissa Chan a short while ago, is that China’s Propaganda Department have directed all domestic media outlets to stop reporting the WikiLeaks content.

There has been much speculation as to what the documents would contain about China.

It is believed that the cables confirm US suspicions that China instigated the attack on Google’s computer systems that lead to Google’s pulling out of the country early in 2010 and to the eventual redirection of to Google’s Hong Kong servers.

According to The New York Times‘s summary of, yet to be published, cables:

China’s Politburo directed the intrusion into Google’s computer systems in that country, a Chinese contact told the American Embassy in Beijing in January, one cable reported. The Google hacking was part of a coordinated campaign of computer sabotage carried out by government operatives, private security experts and Internet outlaws recruited by the Chinese government. They have broken into American government computers and those of Western allies, the Dalai Lama and American businesses since 2002, cables said.

There are even rumours circulating that the Google hacks were instigated by a member of China’s Politburo, the group of the 24 most powerful people in the government, who allegedly Googled his own name and was unhappy that the results were critical of him.

According to The Guardian:

“the hacker attacks which forced Google to quit China in January were orchestrated by a senior member of the Politburo who typed his own name into the global version of the search engine and found articles criticising him personally.”

So far, there has been no official reaction from the Chinese government to this specific story.  However, given that it apparently only refers to an embassy “contact” and perhaps not to any hard evidence, it could be that they choose to ignore it until such times as the source data is made public.  The Next Web Asia will be following this story with interest and will update you of any developments.

Update November 30: According to a post from CNN’s Jo Ling Kent on Twitter, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Hong Lei is quoted as saying: “No comment on content. We don’t want to see any disturbance to US-China relations.”

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