China limits coverage of “Panama Papers“

China has moved swiftly to limit coverage of the massive leak of documents from a Panamanian law firm that might have exposed financial wrongdoing by some of the world's rich and powerful as it blocked some search terms and took down certain stories online.

The ''Panama Papers'' exposed arrangements of politicians and public figures including friends of Russian president Vladimir Putin, relatives of the prime ministers of the UK, Iceland and Pakistan, and the president of Ukraine.

According to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which had published some of the information from the documents, the files also revealed offshore companies linked to the families of Chinese President Xi Jinping and other powerful current and former Chinese leaders.

While holding money in offshore companies is not illegal, according to journalists who received the leaked documents, they could provide evidence of wealth hidden for tax evasion, money laundering, sanctions busting, drug deals or other crimes.

While the Chinese government had to yet respond publicly to the allegations – the cabinet's news office did not immediately answer a request for comment – state media has largely avoided any reporting of the ''Panama Papers'', Reuters reported.

For the word Panama, Chinese search engines display stories in Chinese media on the topic, but many of the links had been disabled or only opened onto stories about allegations directed at sports stars.

The revelations had identified politicians, celebrities and sports starts from across 200 countries, in a huge cache of files that revealed offshore financial operations spanning decades. According to commentators, the revelations come as one of the most prominent news stories across the globe.

However, in China, where news outlets and social media are heavily censored by the Communist government, reports were conspicuously absent.

The Chinese state news agency, Xinhua, appeared to have only one report on its English language website, criticising New Zealand's "shameful complicity" in the schemes.

It did not mention  Deng Jiagui, president Xi Jinping's brother-in-law, and family members of two other members of China's elite Standing Committee, Zhang Gaoli and Liu Yunshan.

Relatives of the three men had been listed as directors or shareholders in firms located in tax havens, in the revelations, which coincide with a high-profile crackdown on corruption in Beijing.