China does not like birds of doom, nor the outspokenness of its economists. Hao Hong, one of China’s most reputable analysts, quit his job at one of the country’s major state-owned banks, days after his public accounts on Chinese social media WeChat and Weibo were censored. Regularly cited by foreign media, including The worldHao Hong knew how to explain the strengths and weaknesses of the Chinese economy, but did not hesitate to point out the inconsistencies of the official statistics.
Based in Hong Kong, he was also present on Twitter, a censored social network in China, where he sometimes let his mind be seen: “Shanghai, zero movement, zero GDP”, says one of its last publications, on March 31. As the government’s zero Covid policy suffocates the economy, the authorities seem to be less and less tolerant of any dissenting opinion on the matter. Hao Hong’s Weibo account, which had 3 million subscribers, disappeared on Saturday, April 30, while his WeChat account was blocked on suspicion of having “infringed the rules “ of the platform.
“Breach of Laws”
Contacted, the former research director of BoCom international holdings, a brokerage subsidiary of the state bank, only indicates that he left his post to “for personal reasons”. But the economist, who joined BoCom in 2012, is far from alone in this case: in recent weeks, the Weibo accounts of Fu Peng, senior economist at Northeast Securities, of Dan Bin, director of Shenzhen Oriental Harbor Investment , and Wu Yuefeng, fund manager at Funding Capital, Beijing, were all suspended for “violation of laws and regulations”.
The zero Covid strategy imposed with an iron fist by Beijing is costing China more and more: most financial institutions have lowered their forecasts for 2022 growth, between 4% and 4.5%, far from the official target of 5.5% set at the beginning of March. While Shanghai has been under strict confinement for six weeks, the anger of the inhabitants is rumbling, but censorship is watching.
Wang Sicong, the son of real estate tycoon Wang Jianlin, ex-richest man in China, also had his Weibo account censored for criticizing the massive use of Chinese medicine to treat Covid-19 – treatments including the effectiveness is not proven, but which enriches certain local health officials. Thursday, April 28, the Chinese Stock Exchange Association, which depends on the stock market regulator, published a press release calling on its members to be cautious: “As public figures, the words and deeds of financial analysts are widely followed,” writes the association, warning against comments “inappropriate”.