Behind Bloomberg, Times Stories, Chinese Journalist Alleges Factional Warfare

January 10, 2014 Updated: January 10, 2014

A veteran Chinese journalist has called into question the source of information used for stories written by Bloomberg News about the wealth of the family of the current head of the Chinese Communist Party. She mentions also The New York Times, which published similar stories with similar sources regarding China’s former premier.

The blockbuster articles by the media organizations were published in mid- and late-2012, a year of intense political contention in China. The Party was not amused: Each company’s website was blocked immediately after publication.

In the West, the reports were widely heralded as pathbreaking for the way they seemed to turn the tools of investigative reporting used in the West on the opaque Chinese political system, and the nexus of wealth and power in China.

Both Bloomberg’s and The New York Times articles served the interests of the political faction grouped around former Party head Jiang Zemin, which fought to regain power during 2012.

Gao Yu, an experienced Chinese journalist who has won awards for her work, recently alleged that at least Bloomberg received the material for its articles from a secret police task force inside the Communist Party, called the 610 Office.

Gao Yu’s article was originally published in the Chinese version of Deutsche Welle, a German government-funded media agency whose news and information on China is generally considered to be credible.  

Typical of some Chinese political reporting, Gao’s article is laced with references to discussions and scenes involving insiders and high-ranking members of the Party, none of which are verifiable. 

Of the Bloomberg article on the wealth of Xi Jinping’s family, for example, Gao Yu writes: “It had to be the most serious blow to Xi Jinping who, leader-in-waiting, had conducted himself carefully and required discretion from his relatives,” according to a translation by the website ChinaChange.  

It continued: “Insiders reported the tension was so high that Xi Jinping was going to relinquish his position, and it was defused when his wife Peng Liyuan disclosed their assets in front of the Standing Committee in person.”

On the alleged receipt of inside information by Bloomberg News, Gao Yu writes: “People familiar with the matter disclosed that, after careful investigation, it was discovered that the information received by Bloomberg [in 2012] came from the 610 Office; that is, the office that Li Dongsheng was head of.” 

Li Dongsheng was most recently reported by the Party’s mouthpiece, People’s Daily, to have been removed from his post and under investigation for “severe violations of discipline,” which is usually a reference to corruption or insubordination.

“Sources say that Li Dongsheng sent them material on all members of the Politburo Standing Committee except Zhou Yongkang and Hu Jintao, but Bloomberg only chose to publish on Xi Jinping, because he was expected to take over the leadership, and was regularly in the news,” Gao Yu wrote. Bloomberg did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

Hu Jintao was the leader of the Communist Party before Xi Jinping. Zhou Yongkang is the former security czar who was part of a faction that rivaled Xi Jinping for power.

The other name for the 610 Office (so named because it was established on June 10, or 6/10, 1999) is the Office of the Central Leading Group for Dealing With the Falun Gong Question. Falun Gong is a traditional spiritual practice currently persecuted by the Communist Party. The persecution began the month after the establishment of the 610 Office. Though the 610 Office was originally formed by Jiang Zemin, the former leader, as a secret security agency specifically meant to target Falun Gong, its scope widened over the years. 

Gao Yu did not explicitly allege that The New York Times also received inside information about Chinese leaders. She inserted a reference to a report written by David Barboza, a reporter for the Times, about the wealth accumulated by the family of Wen Jiabao, the former premier, and said that it contributed to the “scars and bruises” on the communist leadership before its major political meeting at the end of 2012 where the leadership of the regime was decided. Barboza has previously said that he used only “publicly available documents” in his reports. 

Allegations similar to those recently made by Gao Yu were aired back in October 2012 by Dong Fang, the correspondent in Beijing for Voice of America’s Chinese-language service. In an Oct. 26 broadcast, he alleged that the information published on Wen Jiabao, the former premier, had been shopped around to other media outlets.

Both The New York Times and Bloomberg News until recently faced the prospect of having to pack up their entire bureaus in China, because the Chinese authorities withheld the credentialing of nearly all their reporters in the country.