Chinese news sites steer clear of China-related WikiLeaks cables

There is no sign of WikiLeaks material relating to China on news sites in the country today, despite coverage of the leaked diplomatic memos as a whole on popular portals such as Tencent and Sohu.

It was never likely that authorities would allow coverage of such sensitive material to appear – particularly when some of it deals with their censorship of the internet.

Stories published by the Guardian's sister paper the Observer and other WikiLeaks partners today include the claim from a Chinese source that a senior member of the Communist party's politburo was responsible for the attack on Google which led to the company dropping its mainland search service.

In others, the US ambassador to Beijing says a "newly pugnacious" Chinese foreign policy is "losing friends worldwide"; Hillary Clinton discusses the difficulties of standing up to America's banker; and Chinese officials vent their frustrations with North Korea.

Access to the WikiLeaks site is thought to have been blocked for some time prior to the release of the US embassy cables. But articles about China-related cables, including those on the Guardian site, could still be reached at time of writing.

Some users on Twitter – blocked from the mainland, but still used by people who access it via VPNs or proxies – said translation of WikiLeaks coverage of China into Chinese was under way. It seems likely that material will not last long if it is posted on sites hosted on the mainland.

The foreign ministry, the ministry of industry and information technology, and the state council information office – one of the many government bodies involved in regulating the net – could not be reached for comment.

Earlier this week, the foreign ministry said it did not want Sino-US relations to be disturbed by the cables and would not comment on what they actually say, although a spokeswoman described their contents as "absurd".

News that Google and other firms had been hacked became public in January this year. The search giant said it was no longer willing to censor results because of increasing internet censorship and the cyber-attack, which it said targeted human rights activists as well as intellectual property. It later announced it would axe its mainland search service.

A Google spokesman declined to comment on the WikiLeaks revelations today, but stressed the company has not withdrawn from China, as some people have alleged. It instead stopped offering search from China, redirecting users to the Hong Kong-hosted service.

Google's spokeswoman in Japan, Jessica Powell, referred to a January statement that said it had evidence the attack came from China. Google at the time declined to say whether it believed the government was involved.

A senior official with the internet bureau of the State Council Information Office said subsequently that the Chinese government was not involved in or supportive of hacking and called such accusations "sheer nonsense".

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said this week he wanted to expose China and Russia's secrets as much as those of the US.

One Chinese Twitter user wrote: "WikiLeaks is here to take the life of CCP!"

Another commented: "What Assange and WikiLeaks face are the dirty US government, the evil Russian government, the rotten Chinese government and many more. They rule over people in the name of protecting secrets. Assange is trying to destroy the group of liars. He is wanted by the governments, but is a hero of the people."

On the microblog service from popular portal Sina, cynical readers opted for satire.

"I told my sister that WikiLeaks says that two-thirds of Chinese top officials have Swiss bank accounts. She said, 'What? Are you kidding?' Of course it is 100% of them!" one said.

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