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N.Y. Times website blocked after report on China’s premier

BEIJING - Access to the New York Times' English and Chinese websites were blocked in China on Friday shortly after the newspaper published a report on the vast family fortune of the country's premier, Wen Jiabao.

The story, which suggests Wen's family used their influence to amass assets worth at least $2.7 billion, comes at a highly sensitive time weeks before a once-a-decade leadership transition.

Potentially damaging to Wen and his supporters is how the story contradicts the leader's carefully cultivated image as a humble populist.

Details about the private lives and finances of China's leaders are strictly off limits for the state-controlled Chinese press. Chinese censors regularly block foreign websites and bar access to sensitive stories, both online and on television to the few outlets inside China that receive international broadcasters.

Bloomberg is still encountering difficulties in China after publishing a report in June about the wealth accumulated by the family of Vice President Xi Jinping, the man widely expected to be the next leader of China.

Bloomberg's website is still inaccessible inside China without special software that can scale China's so-called Great Firewall.

The New York Times was a banned search term Friday on China's massively-popular micro-blogging services, which are akin to Twitter. The newspaper's micro-blog account in China was also inaccessible.

The New York Times said in an emailed statement that its sites were blocked between 5 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. Friday China time _ shortly after the story was put online.

The newspaper launched its Chinese-language site in June, a major effort that required hiring dozens of translators and moving its Beijing bureau into more expansive facilities. The site's servers are located outside of China.

'We hope that full access is restored shortly, and we will ask the Chinese authorities to ensure that our readers in China can continue to enjoy New York Times journalism,' said Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for the newspaper.

(c)2012 Los Angeles Times

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