June 11, 2019 / 12:38 AM / a month ago

Chinese financial news site closed for 'rectification'

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - A popular Chinese financial news site, wallstreetcn.com, said it has been shut down to undergo “rectification” amid a wider crackdown by the Chinese authorities on websites and news providers.

The move comes just days after Beijing blocked a new batch of foreign news websites, including the Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper, according to those outlets.

A swath of social media accounts known for publishing news and commentary on current events appear to have been suspended.

Wallstreetcn.com said online on Monday night that its website and app had been taken down following a request from the authorities.

It did not provide any details about what rules it may have broken but promised to “carry out the requirements of the rectification in strict accordance with related laws and regulations”.

The Cyberspace Administration of China, or CAC, which regulates the internet in China, did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

China’s ruling Communist Party has long policed news content in print and online, and employs an army of censors to scrub sensitive information from the web.

The party is particularly jittery this year with a string of sensitive anniversaries and heightened tension with the United States over trade.

“(Wallstreetcn.com) was very powerful and provided a lot of ideas for financiers,” said a Shanghai-based investment banker and regular reader who declined to be identified by name due to the sensitivity of the case.

The banker said wallstreetcn.com had helped make Chinese markets more transparent and was also a key conduit of information for small and medium size investors.

“I respect its courage and determination,” said the banker. “I hope it gets back online ASAP. I’m waiting for it.”

While a growing number of foreign news sites have been rendered inaccessible inside the so-called “Great Firewall” of China, the party has also tightened its grip over domestic news providers, compelling them to hew more closely to party lines.

Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reported that wallstreetcn.com was closed because it was deemed to have violated China’s sweeping, two-year-old cybersecurity law, which rights groups have assailed as detrimental to freedom of speech.

In March, Wallstreetcn.com was fined by the CAC for illegally posting news without a licence and “disrupting the order of online information distribution”. It was unclear if the suspension of service was related.

Wallstreetcn.com published rolling Chinese-language headlines of breaking financial, business and economic news from around the world, and also carried commentaries and analysis.

“The government wants to reduce noise and distraction and unite the country during this important trade war, which is understandable in the short term,” said Zhu Haifeng, a retail stock investor.

“But in the long-term, the fear is that China will go backwards and hinder the free flow of information. For investors, of course we hope information is true and comprehensive. If you muffle different opinions, I won’t believe in what I see in the media.”

Wallstreetcn.com said it would make efforts to improve internal monitoring processes and “comprehensively strengthen management of the website operations and staff and strive to return online at the earliest”.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Communist Party’s violent suppression of pro-democracy protesters in and around Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, in which hundreds, possibly thousands, were killed.

In October, China will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the victory of the Communist Party over the Nationalists and the founding of the People’s Republic.

Additional reporting by Cate Cadell, Leng Cheng and the Shanghai newsroom; Editing by Paul Tait and Michael Perry

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