Several Bloomberg employees in Hong Kong said Mr. Winkler made clear in his call that his concerns were primarily about continuing to have reporters work in China, not protecting company revenues. Even so, they said, he gave the listeners a clear impression that the company was in retreat on aspects of its coverage of the world’s second-largest economy, a little more than a year after it locked horns with a confident Chinese leadership that has shown itself willing to punish foreign news organizations that cross it.
Bloomberg News infuriated the government in 2012 by publishing a series of articles on the personal wealth of the families of Chinese leaders, including the new Communist Party chief, Xi Jinping. Bloomberg’s operations in China have suffered since, as new journalists have been denied residency and sales of its financial terminals to state enterprises have slowed. Chinese officials have said repeatedly that news coverage on the wealth and personal lives of Chinese leaders crosses a red line.
The perception among some Bloomberg employees that the company is now unwilling to cross such lines has left them unsettled. More broadly, it has cast new light on the dilemma that numerous foreign news organizations confront as they navigate the pressures of doing both journalism and business in China.
As the article on Mr. Xi’s family was published, in June 2012, Chinese officials ordered the Bloomberg News website blocked. Today, it remains inaccessible on Chinese servers. No Bloomberg journalist trying to enter China on a new long-term assignment has received a residency visa.