The Washington Post took the unusual step of praising its competitor, The New York Times, for the latter’s story on the wealthy relatives of one of China’s most prominent political figures.
The praise came in an piece by the Editorial Board posted Friday afternoon. The Times’ story, the editorial stated, “struck a welcome blow against an aggressive effort by Chinese authorities to censor such information not just from domestic media but also from the U.S. press.”
In their April 20 story, Times reporters Michael Forsythe, Chris Buckley and Jonathan Ansfield examined the business holdings of Communist Party leader Zhou Yongkang’s family members. The value of those holdings, the story said, exceeds $150 million.
The story follows previous coverage by news organizations on the wealth of China’s influential leaders, including Xi Jinping, the Community Party’s current leader and president, and Wen Jiabao, the ex-prime minister.
But not all news outlets have pursued that story aggressively. The Post pointed to Bloomberg, which Forsythe left — the Post said he was fired — late last year in a dispute over an investigation he and others had worked on examining the wealth of a Chinese tycoon with ties to Communist Party leaders’ relatives.
The Times reported that Bloomberg’s held the story out of concern about the reaction from Beijing. It referenced Bloomberg’s business interests in China, which includes the sale of its financial data terminals. Bloomberg editors denied the story was spiked, saying it was not yet ready for publication. But skepticism grew when its chairman later commented that Bloomberg should have “rethought” some of its China stories.
The Post editorial board wrote:
That’s why the Times deserves particular credit for having hired Mr. Forsythe after his firing and for continuing to pursue stories about the wealth of senior Chinese officials. The information is deeply revealing about the Chinese political system, and the country’s citizens deserve to know it.
Post reporter William Wan, who is based in Beijing, wrote an article for Poynter in January describing the pressures of covering China, whose officials have withheld or delayed reporters’ visas and taken other steps to discourage aggressive coverage of its leaders by Western and domestic reporters.