Sunday, 24 September 2023

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China censors prominent journalist who raised concerns about economy

BEIJING, CHINA — A prominent Chinese financial journalist who has compared the country’s economic problems to the Great Depression has been banned from social media.

The Weibo account of Wu Xiaobo, an influential business journalist and author with more than 4.7 million followers, “is currently in a banned state due to violation of relevant laws and regulations”, according to a banner displayed on his page on Tuesday.

Content moderators on Weibo — a Twitter-like platform — said on Monday they had blocked three verified users for “spreading smears against the development of the securities market” and “hyping up the unemployment rate”.

Weibo did not give the full usernames of the blocked accounts, but said one of them had a three-character name starting with “Wu” and ending with “Bo”.

China’s post-Covid economic recovery has faltered, with lacklustre data in recent weeks signalling that the rebound is running out of steam.

Wu’s Weibo page appeared on Tuesday to have been scrubbed of all content posted since April 2022.

Wu did not immediately respond to AFP’s request for comment.

His regular column on the website of the Chinese financial magazine Caixin has long detailed the country’s economic woes, including a declining birthrate and skyrocketing youth unemployment.

“The huge army of the unemployed is likely to become a fuse that ignites the powder keg,” he wrote in a May column that compared the situation with the Great Depression of the 1930s.

In another recent column, he asked whether monetary easing would be able to “solve current economic problems”.

Those columns, however, had not been scrubbed from the internet as of Tuesday.

China’s domestic media is state-controlled, and widespread censorship of social media is often used to suppress negative stories or critical coverage.

Regulators have previously urged investors to avoid reading foreign news reports about China, while analysts and economists have been suspended from social media for airing pessimistic views.


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