China has restricted the circulation of an article written by former premier Wen Jiabao in tribute to his late mother, in what is being seen as an act of censorship against a senior member of the Communist Party.
The essay was titled My Mother and published by a newspaper called the Macau Herald last week. It was reposted by Chinese media outlets over the weekend, but has since disappeared from the websites, according to the Financial Times.
The report said that the obituary-style article was also posted on WeChat, and while those versions are still visible, they have been blocked from being shared further.
WeChat users who tried to share the article received a message that the essay violates the platform’s regulations and could not be shared.
China's premier from 2003 to 2013, Mr Wen wrote about his mother’s struggles during China’s tumultuous years, including during the Sino-Japanese War and the Cultural Revolution, according to Reuters.
On Weibo – the Chinese equivalent of Twitter – links to articles on Mr Wen's tribute returned "404" error messages.
His article has been seen by some as a criticism of President Xi Jinping’s leadership. Wu Qiang, a political analyst in Beijing, told CNN that “given the political climate, his speaking out itself is an important act – and a veiled criticism against Xi”.
China has sought to tighten control over dissent and warned of consequences against those who “distort” the party’s history as the Communist Party prepares for the 100th anniversary of its founding in July.
China’s cyber regulator has launched a mobile application to allow people to report online comments that defame the ruling Communist Party and national heroes.
While the Cyberspace Administration of China did not specify the punishment, people in China already face jail time and other legal punishments for posting content online that criticises the party.