Chinaleaks: Beijing blocks Spanish news site

The Chinese government has blocked the website of Spain's biggest selling newspaper, El País, after it published a report based on leaked documents revealing the hidden offshore assets of the Asian superpower's elite families.

Chinaleaks: Beijing blocks Spanish news site
Spain's El País is one of several major international newspapers that have seen their websites blocked by Beijing. Photo: Screengrab El País

Beijing has also blocked the websites of the UK newspaper The Guardian, and France's Le Monde along with the home page of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

China flicked the switch on the sites after they published leaked information revealing that over a dozen family members of high-ranking Chinese politicians have offshore companies based in the British Virgin Islands.

Among those fingered by the left-leaning El País is Wen Yunsong, the son of former premier Wen Jiabao. Yunsong, a venture capitalist, who is currently chairman of a state-owned satellite services company.

Consultancy firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Swiss banks Credit Suisse and UBS are also named in the documents as middlemen in the Chinese business deals.

The financial documents from the Virgin Islands have come to light as part of a two-year ICIJ investigation into the offshore assets of China's elites.

The ICIJ then shared those documents with newspapers including El País.

Diplomatic relations between China and Spain have been tense in recent times.

In November, a Spanish judge authorized the arrest of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin and four officials in an investigation into the alleged genocide of Tibetans in the 1980s and 1990s.

China's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei went on to seek a "clarification" saying he hoped the Spanish authorities wouldn't do things "that harm the Chinese side and the relationship between China and Spain".

In another recent incident, China's embassy in Spain demanded an apology from Spanish TV channel Telecinco after a 'vulgar' and 'insulting' comedy sketch was aired during the broadcaster's New Year Gala, causing anger across the Asian superpower. 

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Wu Lei’s move to Spain’s ‘Liga’ is ‘massive’, says ‘China’s Beckham’

Wu Lei's transfer to La Liga is "massive" for Chinese football, says a former international who made a similar journey 19 years ago and helped convince the forward to take the plunge in Europe.

Wu Lei's move to Spain's 'Liga' is 'massive', says 'China's Beckham'
Espanyol's unveiled its new Chinese forward Wu Lei on January 29, 2019. Photo: AFP

Xie Hui knows what it is like to venture out of the relative obscurity of Chinese football and make a success of it, having scored goals in Germany's second division.

Now 44 and retired from playing, Xie also knows Wu better than most after working with him for the last few years at Chinese Super League champions Shanghai SIPG.

Xie Hui looking on during an AFC Champions League group stage football match last week. 

Wu left SIPG, where Xie is an assistant coach, for Espanyol in January for a reported €2 million ($2.25 million) and made history this month when he became the first Chinese to score in Spain's top league.

Few Chinese have played among Europe's elite, but Xie told AFP that 27-year-old Wu can make as much of an impact — if not more — as Sun Jihai, who was at Premier League Manchester City from 2002-2008.

“I have no doubt that he has the capability to play in a top league, in a decent team,” Xie said of last season's CSL top-scorer.   

“He always had this dream so he would talk to me and say, 'Oh, but what about the language?' But football is a common language.   

“I told him not to worry, the most important is on the pitch and the training ground. They will respect you if you show it on the pitch, it's as simple as that.”

Xie, who once earned comparisons to David Beckham, because he was married to an actress/model, sent Wu a message of congratulations after his landmark goal in Chinese-owned Espanyol's 3-1 win over Real Valladolid.   

Wu's progress is being closely monitored in China and millions back home will watch the broadcast of Espanyol's city derby with Lionel Messi's Barcelona on March 30.

“It's massive, massive, and something we missed for almost the last 15 years,” Xie said of what Wu's move meant for the development of Chinese football.

Need for speed

Like Wu, Xie was a forward, and after starting his career at Shanghai Shenhua, he moved to Alemannia Aachen in Germany's second tier in 2000.   

Xie hit 20 goals in 52 games and attracted the attention of teams in Germany's top flight, before returning to Shenhua in 2002.   

He had two further stints in Germany, before retiring in 2008.   

Xie, who scored nine goals in 22 appearances for China, warned that Wu will need to be patient and “speed up his mindset” in Spain.   

“Pace and physically, he has no problem,” Xie said.   

“But the CSL is much slower, he had much more time, two seconds in front of the goal. But maybe in Spain, you have just one second.”   

Xie, who has worked under the “unique personalities” of Sven-Goran Eriksson, Andre Villas-Boas and now Vitor Pereira at SIPG, is confident Wu will succeed in La Liga.

But he is less optimistic about the immediate future of Chinese football.   

“I do not see that many (like Wu Lei), I would say another one or two, and that's it of that generation,” he warned.   

That dearth of quality hurts the national side, who have qualified for the World Cup only once, in 2002.

So what hopes of reaching Qatar 2022?   

“That will be a miracle, I would not bet over 50 percent,” said Xie.

“From my understanding it will come, but later, at least 10 years from now.

By AFP's Peter Stebbings