BEIJING -- Access to The New York Times' English and Chinese websites was blocked Friday in China shortly after the newspaper published a report on the vast family fortune of the country's premier, Wen Jiabao.
The story, which suggests that Mr. Wen's family members 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 Mr. 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 China's next leader. 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 also was 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 outside 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," newspaper spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said.