Panama Papers Fallout Continues, Chinese Censors Reflect Current Climate In Beijing

The fallout from Sunday’s release of the Panama Papers, which disclose previously secret financial holdings of 12 current and former world leaders, continued on Monday as Iceland’s Prime Minister, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, found himself under intense pressure to resign amid mass protests in the capital.

According to The Guardian, the Panama Papers show Gunnlaugsson co-owned a company called Wintris Inc, which was set up in 2007 on the Caribbean island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. The previously undisclosed company held his investments and those of his future wife, Anna Sigurlaug Pálsdóttir. He had not disclosed the company on financial disclosure forms.

Forbes magazine offers a different take on the story by charting the extraordinary work of the journalists and the poor security measures of Mossack Fonseca, the law firm that helped to set up the offshore accounts, that led up to the massive document dump.

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko Finds himself in a similar predicament having failed to disclose his offshore holdings in government documents.

Just as Russian officials have denied any impropriety by President Vladimir Putin and have claimed the leak is part of a foreign plot, Chinese officials have taken an equally conspiratorial posture.

Chinese censors have quickly deleted mentions of the Panama Papers and sent directives to news sites and newspapers warning them against coverage. “If material from foreign media attacking China is found on any website, it will be dealt with severely,” censors cautioned in a statement.

The Wall Street Journal reports that coverage by the official Xinhua News Agency has so far been limited to an article detailing comments made by Michel Platini, the disgraced former president of Europe’s soccer federation.

The aggressive tactics of the Chinese censors is to be expected. However, Orville Schell of the New York Times Review of Books notes that the environment in today’s China is growing more reminiscent of the days of Mao.

He says that there has been a “fundamental shift in ideological and organizational direction that is beginning to influence both China’s reform agenda and its foreign relations” under the leadership of Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping.

In an effort to drive out corruption in his party, Xi has set off on a “neo-Maoist-style mass purge aimed at political rivals and others with differing ideological or political views” and has “mobilized its unique and extensive network of surveillance, security, and secret police in ways that have affected many areas of Chinese life,” Schell writes.

“Media organizations dealing with news and information have been hit particularly hard. Pressured to conform to old Maoist models requiring them to serve as megaphones for the Party, editors and reporters have found themselves increasingly constrained by Central Propaganda Department diktats,” he continues.

 

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