On Sunday, 100 news outlets published the first tranche of articles based on the largest leak in history, 2.6TB worth of records from Mossack Fonseca, the third-largest lawfirm specializing in confidential offshore shell-companies.
The Panama Papers implicated world leaders from every region, and the revelations are still playing out — in Iceland, the government may falland be replaced with the world’s first Pirate Party government; in the UK, the revelations about Prime Minister David Cameron’s father’s tax-avoidance racket have made a mockery of the PM’s promise to crack down on corruption.
The Chinese politburo are especially implicated in the leaks, with 8 current and former members of the country’s all-powerful star chamber named in the early coverage. Corruption is a hot-button issue in China, where the state’s legitimacy springs not from democratic elections, but from the idea that the government is technocratically competent and honest, able to steer the country out of agrarian poverty and into industrialized, urbanized plenty. China’s censors are particularly hard on people who discuss official corruption, and corruption stories, from hit-and-runs by the sports-car-driving rich children of political elites to the substandard construction of earthquake-hit schools, set off mass unrest.
So it’s not surprising that the official censorship regime in China has banned all mention of the Panama Papers.
State media appeared to black out the news. But many on microblogging network Sina Weibo and mobile chat network Wechat were discussing the topic on Monday morning, sharing Chinese translations of details of the story, including information on Mr Deng.
A hashtag created on the topic quickly trended.
Checks by the BBC found that by the end of the day many of those posts had disappeared, with at least 481 discussions deleted from the hashtag’s Weibo topic page, and other posts shared on Wechat also deleted.
The website Freeweibo.com, which actively tracks censorship on Weibo, listed “Panama” as the second-most censored term on the network. The top censored term was controversial Hong Kong movie “Ten Years”.