Two of China’s most popular technology news web sites went offline
yesterday after carrying news reports that linked the son of China’s
president to a corruption probe in Namibia, according to a report in The Namibian.

The technology news sections disappeared for several hours from major Chinese portals and early yesterday afternoon, when they started redirecting viewers to general news pages.

Both tech sections had carried reports on a state-owned company accused of bribing Namibian officials, but those reports were missing when the web pages reappeared.

The suspensions appeared to be a government penalty against the companies for reporting on a sensitive political issue.
“I’m impressed by the bravery of Sina and Netease in attempting to report this at all,” said Rebecca MacKinnon, a Hong Kong-based expert on the Internet in China, in an online message.

Information on top leaders’ children has always been off-limits in Chinese media, though the Internet has made it more difficult to control discussions on such topics, MacKinnon said.

Chinese police heavily patrol the Internet, and Internet companies run rigorous screening to prevent sensitive information from appearing on user forums or in search results on their sites.

Companies can be punished if that process fails to catch certain political or pornographic content. “This is not particularly surprising or different from long-standing censorship patterns,” MacKinnon said.

story posted on the NetEase tech page the night before its suspension cited English broadcaster BBC as saying that Nuctech, a Chinese company, was suspected of bribery in a deal to provide scanners for airports and ports in Namibia.

The BBC report had said Namibian authorities wanted to question Hu Haifeng, the former company president and son of Chinese president Hu Jintao, but did not suspect him in the case.

Click here to read the full report, posted on The Namibian's website.