Online, the government’s approach was similarly scorched-earth. A search for Xu’s name (registration required; link in Chinese) on Sina Weibo earns the response that “according to relevant laws, regulations and policy, search results for ‘Xu Zhiyong’ aren’t allowed to be displayed.”

Unlike searches for “Xu,” censors have scrubbed the keywords ”ICIJ” and “offshore” (registration required; link in Chinese) of any critical content, but haven’t outright blocked them. Still, because it blocked the ICIJ site—as well as international news sites that cooperated with it—tweets still linking to the ICIJ report don’t lead anywhere.

Why leave these up? Tweets on Sina Weibo referencing overseas holdings remind people how much wealth Chinese officials and their business confederates hold overseas, and where—hardly news to the Chinese public. Xu’s and his colleagues’ activism, on the other hand, poses a more delicate question: Can such corruption be stamped out without transparency?

Since no one who’s anyone in the Communist party has gotten there thanks to clean hands, this isn’t a question the party is keen to answer. And the more it becomes clear that Xi’s much-vaunted crusade against corruption is really a cherry-picking expedition, the more the public resents its lack of say in who gets to make those decisions.

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